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Movement & The Brain

Nov 11, 2019

Written by Jackie Thomas, OT

For this 2019-2020 school year, Horizon Academy extended its school day. Usually when a school adds minutes to their day, it is intended to be used for instruction or classroom time. Horizon Academy decided to use its extra minutes by adding a component to the day that would make our students more successful, MOVEMENT!  

Movement has been shown to 

  • change neurochemistry
  • increase production of new brain cells and synapses
  • increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain
  • improve attention to task 
  • help information enter into memory
  • improve behavior
  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • and an extra benefit of increasing the strength of the cardiovascular system and decreasing obesity. 

You may wonder, ‘why does this not happen in all schools?’  If you look at state legislation, Missouri is one of less than 10 states that require Physical Education for 50 minutes a week and 20 minutes of recess a day. Kansas only recommends some type of Physical Education and has no recess requirements. Finland has one of the most effective education systems in the world. Their students are given 15 minutes of recess after every 45 minutes of instruction. It’s unfortunate that we would need some legal requirements to ensure Physical Education is present in our students school day. Students in American schools are required to sit for longer periods of time and at an earlier age with the focus being more on academic achievement. Children also are getting less physical activity at home due to the accessibility of technology.

It is important that children learn how to work while sitting, but even as adults, we should realize when our bodies are telling us to get up and move. It is recommended that 2nd-4th grader students should be moving every 25-35 minutes, 5th-6th grade students should be moving every 40-45 minutes and 7th grade students to adults should be moving every 50 minutes, with a total of at least an hour each day of physical activity.  This movement can be through transitions between classes, Physical Education and other specials, seating accommodations, sensory breaks and movement-based learning (which is a movement that occurs during educational activity that directly enhances concepts being learned).  The Jump Start program at Horizon Academy is a great way to start the day and get our bodies ready to learn. The students go through six stations.  The stations incorporate primitive reflex integration, core strengthening, movement, heavy work, visual activity and coach’s choice. The activities change every 2 weeks.  As John Rately, MD, and author of Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain says, “Exercise is the most powerful tool to optimize your brain function.”  At Horizon Academy, we encourage our students to get up and get moving!