The Science behind it all….. Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function. Skeptical? – You won’t be when you realize the evidence is based upon thousands of sound research papers published within the past decade. The book SPARK, written by Dr. John Ratey summarizes this research.
Dr. Ratey Dr. Ratey runs the Sparking Life non-profit organization, which aims to restructure physical exercise practices at schools. He is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Research Synthesizer, Speaker, and Author, as well a Clinical Psychiatrist maintaining a private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has lectured and published 60 peer reviewed articles on the topics of Aggression, Autism, ADHD, and other issues in neuropsychiatry. Sparking Life differs from a regular gym class; it is a novel approach of exercise that moves away from the competitive sports approach to one that employs a wide range of play involving strenuous physical activity, usually aerobic and cardiovascular, for every student. Ratey’s main premise is that the point of exercise is to build and condition the brain. Building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are side effects. The brain responds like muscles do, growing with use, withering with inactivity.
Biological effect of physical activity on the brain: Increased cerebral capillary growth Increased blood flow Increased oxygenation Enhanced production of neurotrophins Neurogenesis Enhanced neurotransmitter levels Associated physiological changes: Improved attention Improved information processing, storage, and retrieval Enhanced coping and positive affect Reduced sensations of craving & pain Improved Mood Motivation and Resilience A Scientific Rationale
Fitness, Hippocampus Size, and Memory Fit Not Fit Kids who were fit and who had better memory, also had larger hippocampii Fitness increases neurons, connectivity- 28 fit 21 non Chaddock L, Erickson KI, Prakash RS, Kim JS, Voss MW, Vanpatter M, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Konkel A, Hillman CH, Cohen NJ, Kramer AF. A neuroimaging investigation of the association between aerobic fitness, hippocampal volume and memory performance in preadolescent children. Brain Res. 2010 Aug 21. [Epub ahead of print]A neuroimaging investigation of the association between aerobic fitness, hippocampal volume and memory performance in preadolescent children.
Growth in the Brain (particularly the Hippocampus)
Growing Your Brain Cells The neurons (brain cells) connect to one another through “leaves” on treelike branches, and exercise causes those branches to grow and bloom with new buds. Example, in one study a group of volunteers were put on a three month exercise regiment followed by having their brains “photographed” Capillary volume in the memory area increased by 30%. Similar studies reveals exercise elevates and balances neurotransmitters, the chemicals that allow brain cells to communicate with one another.
2. Exercise elevates and and balances neurotransmitters. (neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other)
Growing Your Brain Cells Serotonin – influences mood, impulsivity, anger and aggressiveness Norepinephrine – mood, attention, perception, motivation and arousal Dopamine – known as the learning, reward, attention and movement neurotransmitter, it “calms” the mind Exercise elevates the levels of all of these neurotransmitters
Neurochemistry Ratey likes to tell people that “going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates and balances these neurotransmitters.”
3. Exercise increases the growth and development of brain cells
Miracle-Gro for the Brain BDNF is a protein found in brain cells that effect how they grow and develop; it is the master molecule of the learning process. Where neurotransmitters allows for the communication between brain cells, BDNF builds and maintains the cells circuitry. When sprinkled on brain cells in a petri dish, the cells automatically sprouted new branches, producing the structural growth required for learning. “Miracle-gro” for your brain Exercise elevates levels of BDNF
Miracle-Gro for the Brain 2007 study found people learn vocabulary words 20% faster following exercise than they did before exercise, and the rate of learning correlated directly with the levels of BDNF.
4. Exercise increases the electrical activity of the brain
The Prefrontal Cortex Major role in Executive Function Exercise particularly affects our Executive Function – Planning – Organizing – Initiate or delay a response – Consequence evaluation – Learning from mistakes – Focus and Memory Dysfunction in these areas lead to disruption in organization and behaviour control
Naperville Central High School “In our department, we create the brain cells. It is up to the other teachers to fill them” Zientarski 30 percent of US sophomore population is overweight, only 3 percent of Naperville student fall into this category. Why is this?
The Naperville Philosophy Exercise in itself is not fun. It’s work. So if you can make them understand it, show them the benefits-that’s a radical transformation. Less than 3% of adults over 24 stay in shape through playing team sports, thus the importance of teaching “fitness”. Students are assessed on effort rather than skill. You don’t have to be a natural athlete to do well in gym. As a result students at Naperville score off the charts nationally in personal physical fitness
Naperville’s Brain Cells TIMSS test administered every four year to 230,000 students in 38 countries including 59,000 from the US US students as a whole ranked 18 th in science and 19 th in math. Naperville students ranked 1 st in science and 6 th in math
Interesting Facts…. The Zero Hour Physical Education class at Naperville allows students to participate in phys-ed class prior to the start of the regular scheduled day. The curriculum is composed of only activities that will elevate one’s heart rate for extended periods of time. (This is not just dodge-ball) Students are required to stay between 80-90 percent of their max heart rate At the end of the semester, there was a 17% improvement in reading and comprehension, compared to 10% who slept in and took regular PE The experiment continued. When the class was split, the group that took their literacy class immediately following the early morning fitness out performed the group that took literacy during the last period of the day.
Public Magnet School Grades 4-8 Approximately 120 children All on school breakfast and lunch programs. Program: Added 40 minutes of exercise in the morning Exercise was performed in gym in station format. Activities included : Basketball Dance Dance Revolution Double Dutch" jump roping Pogo stick jumping 1st Semester 2006 - 2007 Outcomes: Disciplinary Referrals Year 2006 2007 Referrals: 661 353 Suspensions: 71 24 Teachers reported : Students are more focused. Students are more focused during the MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing as well. Teachers observed: Students testing immediately after morning activities did better — meeting or exceeding individual growth targets — than middle scholars taking the test late morning or in the afternoon.
Barrie Central Collegiate Pass Rates- Min. of Ed. 10/11 11/12 12/13 13/14 Gr 9 Ac. Co. 95.1% 95.9% 96.5% 98.5% Gr 9 Ap. Co. 85.1% 83.2% 89.2% 96.4% Gr 9 Ap. Eng. 84.9% 86.0% 87.2% 90.6% Gr 9 Ap. Mat. 81.6% 89.0% 92.4% 98.4%
Barrie Central Collegiate Pass Rates-Min. of Ed. 09/10 10/11 11/12 12/13 13/14 Gr 10 Ac. Co 93.8% 94.8% 93.9% 96.3% 94.5% Gr 10 Ap. Co 75.3% 84.5% 82.3% 81.5% 92.8% Gr 10 Ap. Eng. 79.2% 82.1% 81.3% 87.7% 98.1% Gr 10 Ap. Mat.74.1% 81.0% 81.4% 80.7% 89.2%
Barrie Central Collegiate At risk Physical Fitness Course (PAI3O) – 24 Students Semester One: – Absent average 25 classes – Credit accumulation 2 of 4 credits – 95 days of suspension Semester Two: – Absent average 15 classes – Credit accumulation 3 of 4 credits – 3 days of suspension
Barrie Central Collegiate Gr 9 EQAO Mathematics Results Applied Courses (% of students at L3 & L4) improved by 12% (28% to 40%) in 2012-13 and by a further 12% in 2013- 14 (40% to 52%) Provincial Average was 47% Academic Courses (% of students at L3 & L4) improved by 12% (79% to 91%) in 2012-13 and by a further 3% in 2013- 14 (91% to 94%) Provincial Average was 85% “Clearly chunking the class with some exercise in the middle of the class plays a major role in their motivation and ability to focus in class” D. Burleigh ( math teacher)
36 At Risk students at 2 high schools in the Niagara Region did aerobic activity for 20 minutes at 65 to 85% of their maximum heart rate on school days. >Improved math skills (KTEA-II) >Improved reading comprehension skills (OCA) >Average number of credits per semester increased Sparking Life Niagara 2011/2012
Improvements noted in… > student learning, memory, mood and behaviour > stress tolerance leading to improved physical health and resilience > attention and motor control > symptoms of anxiety and mood
Texas Cooper Study 2,600,000 Significant correlations were found between physical fitness and various indicators of academic achievement. The study shows that: Higher levels of fitness are associated with better academic performance. Higher performance independent of any demographics: ethnicity, race, income, school. Higher levels of fitness were associated with better school attendance. Higher levels of fitness at a school were also associated with fewer disciplinary incidents. The research looked at the number of incidents involving drugs, alcohol, violence and truancy.
Sweden -The Proof Love to measure and keep records 1.2 million boys born 1950-76; finished H.S. at 15 and entered military at 18. 270,000 brothers, 1300 identical twins. Tested cardio (ergonometric) muscle (knee, elbow, hand) and cognitive appraisal-both at ages 15 and 18. Those that improved cardio fitness, improved IQ. The same result did not occur with an increase in muscle strength. Also, those individuals that improved their cardio fitness, went on to be better educated, more satisfied with life, and attained a higher socio-economic standing. "We believe the present results provide scientific support for educational policies to maintain or increase physical education in school curricula as a means to stem the growing trend toward a sedentary lifestyle, which is accompanied by an increased risk for diseases and perhaps intellectual and academic underachievement," write researchers Maria Aberg and colleagues of the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2009 Nov 30. [Epub ahead of print] Brothers, identical twins showed the same association-those that improved their physical fitness improved their brain power. Its not just about the genes.
SAMPLE DESCRIPTION 2127 Students enrolled 2004-2005 school year Study sample: 1841 students from the 4 th, 6 th, 7 th, 8 th grades. PRIMARY OUTCOMES: Scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Achievement Standard (MCAS Tests) PRIMARY PREDICTOR: Number of fitness tests passed PRIMARY PREDICTOR: FITNESS TESTS Fitness tests administered in Spring 2005 by trained PE teachers. Standards based on Cooper Institute and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU ) 5 Domains of Fitness Endurance cardiovascular Test Abdominal strength Test Flexibility Test Upper body strength Test Agility Test
An increase in the number of fitness tests passed, resulted in: MATH MCAS increasing by 38% (1.234 – 1.541) (p<.001) ENGLISH MCAS increasing by 24% (1.003 – 1.522) (p<.05) Cross-sectional positive relationship between fitness and academic achievement Promoting fitness may support academic achievement More research is required to demonstrate causality Results Conclusion
The Association between School-Based Physical Activity, including Physical Education, & Academic Performance A CDC Report, April 2010 ?
Does the Literature Concur? CDC performed a comprehensive literature review 406 total articles that have examined the association between school- based physical activity and academic performance 43 articles included in synthesis and categorized based on physical activity context (PE, recess, classroom activity, and extracurricular activity) and then by academic performance outcome (academic achievement, academic behavior, and cognitive skills & attitudes) CDC found 251 associations between physical activity and academic performance 50.5% positive 48% not significant 1.5% negative
In the News... http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/09/01/f- sparking-life-niagara-region-schools.html http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/09/01/f- sparking-life-niagara-region-schools.html – What is happening at Eastdale and Lakeshore Catholic High School “Fun makes the exam easier” – article in the Toronto Star, Thursday September 15, 2011 – High energy, blood-flow-boosting warm-up to before EQAO Grade 3 and 6 tests. www.johnratey.com
Curriculum Connection School boards, school administrators, and principals can feel confident that maintaining or increasing time dedicated for physical activity during the school day will not have a negative impact on academic performance, and it may positively impact students’ academic performance.
Barrie Central Spark Group How can the information enable us to help students enrolled at Barrie Central become more successful in the classroom? Immediately 1 year from now 5 years from now
Gather a Group of Like Minded People “ Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has ” Margaret Mead “If it‘s not fun don’t do it” Russell Atkinson
Barrie Central’s school-wide SPARK program started in the fall of 2011and continues to evolve today. All classroom teachers at Barrie Central are encouraged to have their students participate in SPARK on a daily basis. Activities vary due to, weather conditions, student preferences, curriculum commitments etc. Indoor – skipping, jumping jacks, push-ups, tug of war, obstacle courses, agility ladders, dancing, etc. Outdoors- ultimate Frisbee, footballs, hacky sacks, walking, jogging, dancing “SPARK”
“SPARK” Students can participate in SPARK periods one through four. During the 75 minutes of a period it is up to the teacher’s discretion as to when SPARK occurs. Spark usually takes 10-15 minutes depending on the activity and time restraints of the lesson.
“SPARK EQUIPMENT” Activity Bins in every other classrooms – total costs approximately $3000.00 for the entire school. Playbooks to accompany activity bins written by staff at Barrie Central On-line dance resources produced with the help of the “Fit to Dance” company PD sessions were scheduled to train staff early in the year
Changed Assessment Alertness Concentration Attention Motivation Mood Cognitive Function Professional Discretion Assessment for learning (Student Biometrics)
Changed the Classroom Professional Discretion in the Classroom Classroom Based Physical Activities 5-20 minute interventions Action Box Activities (BCC website)
Changed the Phys.Ed Curriculum The curriculum is composed of activities that will elevate one ’ s heart rate for extended periods of time. Students graded on their ability to keep their heart rate between 65%-90% of maximum heart rate. Level The Playing Field
Changed the Courses Offered At risk Physical Fitness Course (PAI3O) – 24 Students Semester One: – Absent average 25 classes – Credit accumulation 2 of 4 credits – 77 days of suspension Semester Two: – Absent average 15 classes – Credit accumulation 3 of 4 credits – 3 days of suspension
School Wide Physical Activities Pedometer Challenge Dance Challenge No Cut Sports Team Cross County Running Swimming Badminton Ultimate Frisbee Changed the School
No Cut Sports Teams Represent your School Reward involvement The number of practices attended The number on a team The number of Grade 9 ’ s The number of student coaches etc. Changed School Teams
Changed Families and Friends Students take their knowledge and enthusiasm home and engage their friends, siblings and parents in healthy active living.
Changed the Community Promote Active Living Sidewalk activities Time/distance arrow to destination Activity stops on the sidewalk (hopscotch) Wheels Wednesday Feet Fridays Seniors and Teens events
“SPARK” Evaluation A follow up PD session in October allowed for our staff to evaluate the SPARK program’s progress. Teachers shared their ideas regarding what was and was not successful as well as to introduce staff to new ideas and activities. The playbook was updated and grew! Key Findings – STUDENTS LOVED SPARK!! Although some initial hesitation the student’s of Barrie Central quickly embraced SPARK and would come to not only expect it, but request it when they felt they needed it!
SPARK TESTIMONIALS As a teacher of senior level Biology, I have seen this benefit in practice. A daily exercise and movement break during a 75 minute period that can often contain heavy curriculum material is essential. After which, students are more ready to get back to work and they may get more work done. Students are seeing the many benefits of it as well. They consistently request to do Action4Life (SPARK) activities when they are feeling their concentration slip.
It has also been my experience that once the habit is formed, to have those 10 minute bouts of activity, that students will actually look forward to it, become more aware of its value, which further justifies and reinforces the habit. While this is not an all or nothing teaching strategy, its value to the health of student’s bodies and minds cannot be discounted and is highly encouraged, in my opinion.