Sunday, February 25, 2018

JFK Swore By This, Offers Almost Instant Stress Relief

Research1 has convincingly demonstrated that the more physically active children and teenagers are, the better they do academically. As noted by the authors of a 2012 scientific review:
"Physical activity and sports are generally promoted for their positive effect on children's physical health … There is also a growing body of literature suggesting that physical activity has beneficial effects on several mental health outcomes … In addition ... there is a strong belief that regular participation in physical activity is linked to enhancement of brain function and cognition, thereby positively influencing academic performance."
Several mechanisms that help explain why physical activity benefits cognition have been proposed. For starters, exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to your brain, which in and of itself increases learning speed.2 Exercise also increases levels of norepinephrine and endorphins, which lowers stress and improves mood. Importantly, exercise triggers growth factors that create new nerve cells and enable brain plasticity, thereby facilitating memory and learning. According to the authors of this 2012 review:
"The increasing pressures to improve academic scores often lead to additional instructional time for subjects such as mathematics and language at the cost of time for being physically active … [T]he literature provides inconclusive evidence on the positive longitudinal relationship between physical activity and academic performance. However, there is a strong general belief that this relationship is present, and research in this area is ongoing."

The Motivation Factor

The featured documentary, "The Motivation Factor,"3 investigates these claims, showing how exercise — and particularly physical education (PE) in school — helps motivate kids and young adults to excel in other areas of life, including academically.
"The knowledge that the physical well-being of the citizen is an important foundation for the vigor and vitality of all the activities of the nation, is as old as the Western civilization itself. But it is a knowledge which today, in America, we are in danger of forgetting."
This quote is attributed to president-elect John F. Kennedy, given during an interview in December 1960. Unfortunately, his warning went largely unheeded, and today, children and young adults are more sedentary than ever. Not only is this having consequences for physical health, but it's also taking a psychological toll. As noted in the film, exercise has the ability to unite people, to bring them together and form interpersonal bonds. This too plays an important role in a person's ability to succeed in life.
In the 1800s, one-third of the time spent in school was dedicated to physical exercise. The ancient Greeks spent a full half of their education working on physical fitness. Kennedy, too, was a firm believer in the idea that exercise produced academic excellence and built integrity. As noted in the film, the historical view has been that physical wellness leads to a healthy mind, body and spirit. "Our current state of physical illiteracy leaves us guessing how to become smart, productive and mentally stable," the narrator notes.

Physical Education Is Imperative for Life Success

A consequence of striking PE from the curriculum in American schools has led to the worst education and productivity rankings since the '70s. In addition, despite spending more money on health care than any other country on Earth, the U.S. has the highest rate of mental illness, and both obesity and chronic illness has dramatically risen with each passing decade.
Throughout the film, you see 50-year-old video clips from PE classes at La Sierra High School in Riverside, California. La Sierra High followed Kennedy's lead, developing one of the most rigorous and progressive daily fitness curricula in the U.S. Long rows of young men looking like they belong in a fitness magazine stream by. It's a far cry from the high school students of today.
Tony Asaro, part of La Sierra High's class of 1967, describes how his high school training has served him throughout his life. To this day, he runs 3 miles and does his stretches every morning. It keeps him feeling good, both physically and mentally, and keeps him motivated to pursue life with vigor and optimism. Ed Carisoza, class of '61, agrees, saying he's been exercising ever since his high school days. The fitness habits he developed back then stuck with him for life. (MORE)

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