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Exercise and the Brain

John Ratey

Zero Hour PE: an expt to determine whether working out before school gives kids a boost in academic work. One exercise - run a mile wearing heart monitors, with twin aim - try to beat your best time, and get heart rate over 185 beats per minute. The last is the one that counts - they get an A for the 'test' if they do that. The heart monitor let them measure effort, rather than achievement, so the non-sporty types got full credit.

Changed gym from team sports, where kids spent a lot of time inactively waiting for their turn, to activities focused on cardio - not just running miles, but also 3-on-3 basketball or 4-on-4 soccer. And they were simply graded on how much time they spent in their target heart range.

On of impt things about education is to find something the kid feels good at. Give them lots of chances to excel and ways to measure themselves and you set up lifetime fitness activities.

If you ask people what you want kids to be able to do when leave school, they'll say "We want them to be able to communicate, we want them to be able to work in small groups, we want them to be able to problem solve. We want them to know when to take risks." Does that happen in science class? I don't think so.

A mandatory dance class as both physical activities and social education. At first, kids given scripts to use as conversation starters with partners, then later interact without scripts. (Change partners after each dance) The final exam based on how accurately remember 10 facts about the last partner spent 15 minutes chatting to.

Turns out exercise has an immediate effect on anxiety/panic disorders - just 30 minutes on a treadmill. Better than pills, because builds confidence in your own ability to cope.

Study enlisted African-American women 60 - 86 with low educational skills. Trained them to teach primary school kids basic reading, writing and math, speaking and library skills. Not only did the kids improve test scores, but the health of the volunteers substantially improved.

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