Thursday, March 3, 2011

Exercise and your child's brain

Exercise plays a vital role in the healthy
development of your child's brain.

Physical activity stimulates brain growth in much
the same way that it causes muscles to develop.
Through physical exercise, nerve cells are activated
in the brain which stimulates the creation of new
neurological pathways. The brain grows as these
pathways are developed. The greater the pathways,
the greater the brain's capacity to hold, understand
and process information.

As well as strengthening the growing body, physical
activity builds the motor control centers in the brain
contributing to the healthy maturation of muscle
coordination and the sensory-motor system.

When we understand just a little about how important
it is to nurture and expand the cerebral cortex, the part
of the brain that is responsible for higher thinking,
self-regulation and creative thinking to name a few
functions, we recognize how important it is to incorporate
physical activity into our family culture.

We are all aware of the negative effects of stress on
adults - stress affects children in a negative way as well.
Children encounter a multitude of stresses ranging from
peer pressure to keeping up with homework and high grades,
to simple stresses they feel as they socialize.

Remember when your five year old hears,
"I don't want to be your friend", in the heat of the moment,
this becomes a very big deal in her mind. Why? because
she believes that someone she has bonded with will be
gone from her forever. She does not have the capacity
to understand that this is a temporary reaction.
This causes stress.

Exercise has a tremendous ability to disengage stored
emotions and stress that are being held by the body.
Eventually, the mind relaxes to a place of ease with the
release of endorphins through physical exercise.
The body will always follow the mind. When the mind is
calm, the body relaxes. When the body relaxes clear
thinking is much easier.

As exercise contributes to the healthy maturation of
the cerebral cortex, it also contributes to your child's
ability to remain calm and focused when challenged
because she is training her higher brain function to
be in charge of her lower brain functions which are
responsible for the fight/flight reactions. When your
child hears, "I don't want to be your friend," this doesn't
need to escalate into a meltdown as your child learns
to respond (higher brain function) rather than react
(Lower brain, fight/flight ).

A child that spends more time being active and less
time in passive states, such as watching TV or playing
video games has a better chance of developing more
neural pathways and increasing the capacity of her
higher brain function. A child that is ruled by lower
brain functions is quick to react or over react, has
minimal capacity to self soothe, is more aggressive,
has difficulty concentrating and her problem solving
skills are lacking.

When we keep our kids moving, exploring and energized
in a balanced way, we are helping them on so many levels.
When we take that extra step and participate in physical
activities with them, everyone wins.

With love and light,

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