Thursday, March 13, 2008

Running : Miracle-Gro for the Brain

On many elementary school campuses in San Diego, California children run for 15 or 20 minutes each morning to fight childhood obesity with before-school running clubs. An additional bonus that has received much attention in the last few months is the theory that running also boosts brain development.

The importance of physical activity was also documented by the California Department of Education study that showed a correlation between the number of state physical fitness standards children meet and how well they scored on reading and math tests.

Classroom teachers insist there is an instant payoff to a few laps. Children who get off to a running start take the momentum into their first class where they seemed to arrive without the usually wiggles that can interfere with learning.

John Ratey of Harvard Medical School and author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” said exercise increases the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor that helps the brain do its job better.

“That is what I call Miracle-Gro for the brain,” Ratey said.

The protein encourages brain cells to sprout synapses, which contribute to learning.

Rene, a fifth-grade student in San Diego has already learned an important life lesson.
“I'm trying to live a better life by running,” Rene said. “The more you run, the healthier you can be.”

Pedometers
are another way to motivate kids to run. The We Count Program includes step charts and stickers for getting kids moving.