Movement in Education

Hi All,

By now many of you know about the incredible importance of movement for learning.  John Ratey’s book Spark is a great resource for lay people to read about the research, but to sum up, all learning brains need cardio.  While we often hear about the benefits for children with ADHD, that completely ignores the fact that while it will definitely benefit children with ADHD, it is beneficial – and indeed necessary – for ALL children.  Why?

Cardio (and specifically cardio – other forms of exercise are not as effective) increases dopamine levels in the brain, the neurotransmitter that is necessary for motivation and sustained attention.  Dopamine gives us a sense of pleasure, and tells us to keep doing the activity that we are currently engaged in.  Many of us may know about dopamine through its natural role in sexual attraction or its unhealthy role in drug addiction.  At lower levels, we may even recognize dopamine’s presence through the sense of pleasure and well-being from reading a book.  But what we don’t often realize is that without that sense of pleasure at even lower levels, we wouldn’t even sustain attention to the end of a page.

So great, kids can pay attention better if they move more (hence why it gets so much press in ADHD articles).  But there are other benefits that parents and teachers need to know about.  There are health implications, as a recent study showed that children need to move ten minutes out of every hour to avoid atherosclerosis, a hitherto age-related problem where the veins harden and become sclerotic.  Movement breaks reverse that trend, and beyond that, the resulting higher dopamine levels lead to fewer mood disorders and fewer behavioral incidents in schools.  They lead to engaged students who want to be in class learning.  So the question is not how to afford the time to schedule in movement, the question is how can we afford not to?

At the request of a teacher, I created a document with suggestions on how to incorporate movement into your classes.  You can find it here: Movement Breaks by Affect Academics.  I hope that parents can give it to their teachers, and teachers can download it to pass around school.

And parents, don’t forget that cardio in the after school hours can lead to better sleep and lower stress levels, both of which are also inextricably linked with learning.

If you’d like us to visit your school for a professional development workshop around movement and the learning brain, please drop us a note at

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