S.T.E.A.M. Day

Exercise makes your child a better learner

I’m sure you have heard it countless times before: exercise is important. When people think of exercise, the physical benefits come to mind first. Hardly anyone acknowledges the effect of exercise on children as developing learners. Exercise can increase our capacity to learn on a neurological level through:


  • Increased adaptability to change and form new connections in the brain
  • Faster neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) 
  • Heightened levels of birth-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNP) essential for neuron growth


Children who frequently (ranges from 3 – 5 times a week) have aerobic exercise sessions see positive changes in:


Spatial learning 

Children who regularly exercised had more brain volume than children who did not. Changes were concentrated in the hippocampal region, which is responsible for spatial and declarative memory. In a spatial memory task, children who regularly exercised also displayed better information retention, indicating higher efficiency in transferring short term memories to long term memory. 


Working memory

In the short term, exercise increased a child’s ability to concentrate and filter out information. Children who exercised prior to the Flanker test (filter through visually conflicting information), showed higher brain activation in regions responsible for attention and working memory. Some children also exhibited better patience on the test by slowing their pace and decreasing mistakes. 


Executive function

In the long term, researchers found concrete improvements in executive function. The high intensity high frequency aerobic exercise group (aerobic exercise 5 times a week in 40 minute sessions) showed significant improvements in planning and improvising ability. This group also showed better cognitive flexibility- the ability to adapt our thinking and behavior to match the environment and think and switch between different concepts and activities.


So… does exercise improve academic performance?

As the title says, exercise can equip your child with tools to make them a better learner. As we all know, just because we can do it, doesn’t guarantee we will. Children are no different. All parents can do is foster their children to take advantage of educational opportunities by supporting intrinsic interests and natural curiosities.