Physical Education is Like “Miracle-Gro” for the Brain
Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard clinical associate professor of psychiatry, argues that not only is more physical activity essential for reducing the incidence of obesity, but it helps improve kids’ academic performance as well.
“I cannot understate how important regular exercise is in improving the function and performance of the brain . . . [It] stimulates our gray matter to produce Miracle-Gro for the brain,” Ratey writes in his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008, Little, Brown).
Exercise, Ratey explains, prompts the release of proteins into the bloodstream that increase the production of brain chemicals that improve the connections between existing neurons and helps trigger the formation of new ones. Levels of other neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, also are elevated after strenuous exercise, helping to increase focus and induce feelings of calmness. “It’s like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin,” says Ratey.