Exercise Boosts Learning

Exercise and Learning


Learning and exercise go hand-in-hand, and physical education enhances brain functioning more than any other class taught in school according to researchers (Jensen, 2008, pg. 38). There are three main advantages of exercise on brain functioning: it increases circulation, thus enhances the amount of oxygen and nutrients being carried to the brain, it may enhance nerve growth, and it enhances the production of new cell growth in the brain (Jensen, 2008). Based on the research it is hard to argue that physical education and exercise should not be incorporated into more than just gym class. It could be used in a wide variety of ways throughout the school and in every classroom.

They identify three interactive and mutually supportive elements that should be present in order for complex learning to occur: "relaxed alertness," "orchestrated immersion," and "active processing."

Positive stress may also increase brain functioning and learning, whereas distress might fulfill the opposite function – erode brain growth and learning. “When the brain is put on alert, defense mechanisms and behaviors are activated, which is great for survival but not for learning” (Jensen, 2008). Caine and Caine “identify three interactive and mutually supportive elements that should be present in order for complex learning to occur: 'relaxed alertness,' 'orchestrated immersion,' and 'active processing'”( Chipongian, 2010).

It is my belief that by using brain-based learning incorporated with exercise, we as educators have a good chance to help facilitate brain growth. And by using a certain amount of positive stress in controlled activities we will help distressed learners overcome their disadvantages and learn to deal with stress in a positive way while enhancing brain growth.

During physical exercise there is a certain amount of neurological activity occurring in the brain that educators can use to promote brain growth and learning. “Neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine discovered that exercise triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a natural substance that enhances cognition by boosting the ability of neurons to communicate with each other” (Jensen, 2008). In layman's terms exercise makes the brain a more efficient functioning organ which will promote learning and cognition.

Another physiological attribute that exercise has on the brain is that during exercise norepinephrine is regulated, that is an important part of brain chemistry for educators because “norepinephrine is a memory fixative that aids in the ability [of people] to remember content.” (Jensen,2008).

If exercise is the hand that feeds brain growth, than distress could be viewed as the wall that keeps the hand away. When high levels of stress cause the brain to go into defensive survivor instincts a number of negative chemical reactions occur in the brain. High levels of distress for long sustained periods leave toxic levels of cortisol residue in the brain which can actually interfere with neuron production (Sapolsky, 2004 Jensen, 2008). Examples of factors that could cause high levels of distress include threats of physical harm, sexual abuse, neglect, and poor living conditions. Factors that can be overcome with intervention and positive peer relationships with other successful students (Jensen, 2008).

Positive examples of stress that could enhance learning and brain function include deadlines, and the ability of the learner to perceive and overcome a challenging activity (Jensen, 2008).Chemically in these situations the brain releases cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine “which heighten our perceptions, increase our motivation, and strengthen our body – all conditions that enhance learning” (Jensen, 2008).

I have reviewed the positive effects of exercise and stress on the brain and the opposite negative effects of distress on the brain. In conclusion, I would request that all educators use brain-based learning techniques to enhance the effectiveness of their classroom. Given the information it is up to the reader's own imagination how to incorporate these strategies in his or her own class, but given the data it is impossible to argue any negative aspects of enhancing brain functioning while in a learning environment. Physical education maybe one of the most important times in the students day and I would request that each student be allowed to partake in at least thirty minutes a day of physical activity, and that teachers would keep these strategies in mind in their own classrooms by adding more physical activity as well. I would also encourage teachers to explore the advantages of positive stress and curriculum in which they could implement activities that would facilitate positive chemical changes in the brain that would enhance learning. “When there's a mismatch between the brain and the environment, something at a school will suffer” (Jensen, 2010).


Works Cited

Jensen, Eric (2008). Brain-based Learning: The New Paradigm of Teaching. Corwin Press: California.

Jensen, Eric (2010). A Fresh Look at Brain-based Education. Abstracted from http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k_v89/k0802jen.htm. April 12, 2010.

Chipongian,Lisa (2010). What is “Brain-based Learning.” abstracted from http://brainconnection.positscience.com/topics/?main=fa/brain-based April 12, 2010.

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Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 6 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

sound body = sound mind! - Interesting you said relaxed alertness is good for learning. That's why the learning system of listening to soothing music in an almost meditative state has also showed to be one of "super learning" methods. Good stuff!

Love - Light - Laughter


JDeAngelis profile image

JDeAngelis 5 years ago from Oz

I always believed that exercise improves learning as does good nutrition and proper sleep, great to see a hub on the topic.

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