Studies have shown that what we tend to separate into separate categories: exercise and academics, are actually quite intertwined. According to John Ratey MD of Harvard Medical School, exercise builds up the body’s level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. BDNF causes the brain’s nerve cells to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways, which leads to your kid’s openness to learning and more capacity for knowledge. Now although that may be more information than we tend to need, the essential concept is one we have known for a very long time. So instead let's look at a simple study performed by the University of Illinois, they found that fit children scored better in a series of cognitive challenges and the kids’ MRI showed a significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply.
So let's get this straight, you mean to tell me that when our kids exercise, and essentially become more fit, not only do their physical bodies become more fit, but their physical brains actually become larger in areas that make them more intelligent? The answer is yes!
Shall we say it another way? When your child dedicates his/her exercise time towards something physically demanding and structured (say our CrossFit Kids program), at the same time as them increasing their physical stamina, energy, strength, flexibility, etc...they will also likely be increasing their mental capacity (focus, executive control, thought process, etc). Who would've thought, increasing your child's fitness would also increase their GPA?
Whenever a new adult is on the fence about joining CrossFit a common question I ask is, "Well what can you gain from this experience?" and the answer is 80% physical, with an occasional 20% something else. Well for a parent on the fence about enrolling their child in CrossFit the question is the same, but the answer can now apply to a much wider array, "Do I want my child to be better at sports? AND do I want them to improve in school?" In the next few weeks I'm going to be covering the many benefits of a CrossFit Kids program, today's was pretty eye-opening, wouldn't you say?