HEALTHY BODIES, HEALTHY MINDS
Exercise as a central component of treatment has taken many forms in Northwest Passage’s programs over the past 40+ years, from formalized vigorous multi-week training programs preparing residents for wilderness adventures to 2-minute “move and shake” sessions in the classrooms. There is a large body of evidence that points to the benefits of exercise and movement in the promotion of both mental health and cognition. At Northwest Passage, we strive to stay abreast of the rapidly changing field of movement and exercise as they apply to total brain and body health.
It’s a Brain Changer
Morning Exercise = Mental Health
Exercise and Mental Health
Your Brain on Exercise!
“A healthy understanding of the role that movement plays in our day to day lives is critical to sustaining positive mental health. Exercise comes in many forms.”
PHYSICAL EXERCISE FOR PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS
- Exercise has been linked to improved self-esteem, energy, concentration, and sleep–all of which can be impaired by psychiatric disorders.
- Individuals with psychiatric disorders may benefit from establishing an exercise regime as part of their care.
- Healthcare professionals should provide specifics regarding the type of exercise, duration, frequency, and intensity appropriate for the patient’s disorder.
AEROBIC EXERCISE AND ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
- Within respective studies, aerobic exercise increased the effectiveness of methylphenidate in reducing clinical symptoms [of ADHD] and perseverative errors as well as in increasing brain activity within the right frontal cortex.
- Aerobic exercise may improve the speed of attention processing in the temporal lobe in response to working memory task (WCST) in adolescents with ADHD.
- Exercise can have other impacts, including to induce dopamine release in patients with Parkinson disease.
DAILY WALK EASES DEPRESSION
- In comparing mood problems between two groups of adults, those who got no exercise at all were 44% more apt to be diagnosed with depression than those who exercised at least one hour per week.
- Adults who engage in aerobic exercise show mood improvements similar to depressed adults who took Zoloft.
- A significant number of adults who did not benefit from antidepressants had their depression go into remission after participating in an exercise program for 12 weeks.
- Quality of life factors that improved in women with mild depression who engaged in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 200 minutes of walking per week included increased energy, improved social engagement, and better physical functioning.
WHY YOUNG KIDS LEARN THROUGH MOVEMENT
Experiential learning is a rich way to collect information and act out their lessons. It capitalizes on the full spectrum of imagination, reflection, experience while allowing kids to shift between “roles and perspectives, between modes of thinking and tinkering.”
- Self-directed learning is important and occurring at lower rates than in the past
- Research has shown time and again that children need opportunities to move in class.
- Memory and movement are linked, and the body is a tool of learning, not a roadblock to or a detour away from it.
EFFECTS OF THE FITKIDS RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL ON EXECUTIVE CONTROL AND BRAIN FUNCTION
- An active lifestyle during childhood may have protective effects on brain health across the lifespan, as is key for physical health.
- Participating in a daily, after school PA [physical activity] program enhances executive [cognitive] control.
- Children receiving a PA intervention improved performance on a flanker task and showed anterior frontal brain patterns and incongruent task performance similar to that of college-aged adults after the intervention.
- Policies that reduce or replace PA opportunities during the school day (e.g. recess), in an attempt to increase academic achievement, may have unintended effects.
- Given that scholastic success in reading and mathematics is heavily reliant upon effective executive control, [the] findings have broad relevance for public health, the educational environment, and the context of learning.
EDUCATING THE STUDENT BODY: TAKING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION TO SCHOOL
- Estimates show that only about half of youth meet the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans‘ recommendation of at least 60 minutes of daily vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity.
- Extensive scientific evidence demonstrates that regular physical activity promotes growth and development in youth and has multiple benefits for physical, mental, and cognitive health.
- Children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.
- Schools traditionally have used physical education as their primary means of promoting physical activity. But they face challenges in continuing to deliver it both equitably and effectively.
THE INFLUENCE OF CHILDHOOD AEROBIC FITNESS ON LEARNING AND MEMORY
- In children, lower amounts of fitness have been related to decreased cognitive function for tasks requiring perception, memory, and cognitive control as well as lower academic achievement.
- During an encoding task, higher fit children utilize more successful encoding and recall strategies, suggesting that higher fit children may have stronger cognitive control abilities and may use memory more efficiently.
- Fitness differences interacted with initial learning strategy, with higher fit children outperforming lower fit children in recall of the [pretend, mapped] regions learned using the study only condition, while higher and lower fit children performed similarly in recall of the regions learned using the test-study condition.
STUDENTS' HEALTH HABITS TIED TO SCHOOL SUCCESS
- Students with environments that supported their physical health were more likely to reach their target scores in reading, writing and math.
- They were more than twice as likely to achieve this academic success than students whose environments supported their health the least.
- Health factors that were linked to improved test scores included:
- Not having a television in the bedroom
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Being physically fit
- Having access to healthy foods
- Rarely eating fast food
- Not drinking sugary drinks, such as soda
- Getting enough sleep
- “One way to reduce disparities and close the equity gaps in health and education is to coordinate community and family-based efforts with comprehensive school-based approaches.”