Effects of physical activity on academic performance
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get one hour or more of physical activity every day (www.cdc.gov, 1). In the past, forcing children and young adults to get an adequate bout of physical activity in a day was never a problem. In this day, it has become more of a struggle due to technological, economic, and social changes (Juneau, 2010, www.hsph.hardvard.edu, 3). These changes have affected the methods of physical activity that were once very prominent in a child's daily routine. For example, a study done in 1969 showed that forty percent of children rode their bikes to school (Nader, 2008). A study done later in 2001, showed that only thirteen percent continue to ride their bikes to school (Nader, 2008). The lack of physical activity in children's routines has caused many people to question whether it can have an effect on their cognitive growth. In particular, people have questioned whether physical activity can have an effect on academic performance. There have been two mechanisms thought to be the reason for improved academic performance when physical exercise is performed. The mechanisms are labeled as physiological mechanisms and learning/development mechanisms. The physiologic mechanisms deal with bodily changes that are brought on by performing exercise. The Hippocampus is a portion of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe that is responsible for long term memory. Studies have shown that lifestyle choices can affect the plasticity in the Hippocampus (Monti, 2012). In particular it can be affected by physical activity. Physical activity will increase the cerebral blood volume that is in the Hippocampus. When the blood volume is increased Neurogenesis occurs. Neurogenesis is a process where neurons become generated from neural stem and progenitor cells (Hannula, 2009). Studies have shown that the formation of new neurons in the brain allows the child to continue adding memories to their brain and altering memories so they can be distinguished from one another (Sibley, 2003). The arousal levels in the body are also increased after physical exercise. The learning and development mechanisms are based on studies showing that movement can stimulate cognitive development (Sibley, 2003). They hypothesize that movement aids and may even be necessary for proper cognitive development to occur in a child.