I have written on this topic many times (see #62 Move to Learn, #71 Primitive Reflexes, #72 Learning to Learn, #148 Movement and its Many Benefits) but thought the message was worth repeating. A couple of workshops are coming up which I recommend as I know the presenters so I thought it a good idea to talk about movement in general.
At the recent Move to Learn conference in Sydney the topic of the ageing brain came up again. The bottom line is ‘use it or lose it’. As older people become less active they become less agile. That makes sense. Where the danger lies is in losing their core strength which is their balance centre, making them prone to falls. The lack of exercise is also what leads to cognitive decline. What is often not realised is that the movements that are needed by the elderly to rewire their brains are the same ones to wire up the brains of children with learning difficulties. Of course you are not necessarily going to have elderly people rolling on the floor if they are incapable of that but instead can have them rolling against a wall. There are lots of seated exercises that can be done as well. The point is, just move.
Children, these days, are becoming increasingly sedentary. Doctors and specialists everywhere worry about the obesity epidemic. Like the elderly, what could be an equally poor outcome is the lack of brain stimulation due to insufficient movement. What’s needed can be as simple as walking or running or could be more sophisticated as in athletics, swimming, sport or dance. Countless books and papers have been written about the benefit of exercise at all ages so I am not going to re-state the obvious. The point for children is that you need to wire up the brain sufficiently through different forms of movement so it is capable of learning. Movement, therefore, is about far more than simply health and fitness. Insufficient stimulation will mean it takes a lot longer to acquire sufficient cognitive function. This, to me, is highly significant. If a child is not sporty it isn’t quite as noticeable as not being good academically. Psychological problems can form when a child is incapable of the simplest of tasks in class. Wiring up the brain through movements such as those in the Move to Learn 10 Gems book could be the solution to enabling students not only physically but academically as well. As those children grow into adults, the inclusion of regular exercise is far more likely.
Barbara Pheloung writes in ‘Overcoming Learning Difficulties’ – The process of learning begins with the experience we get from moving our bodies, then we become interested in manipulating objects and finally pictures become meaningful. All this happens before we are able to understand what symbols stand for – symbols such as letters and numbers. Eventually we develop the ability to think without the aid of physical stimuli and we can form concepts and theories.’ (1992:77)
Children are naturally exuberant as a rule which is often too much to handle (I know my grandchildren wear me out!) but not being exuberant enough is far worse. Get them moving!
Upcoming Movement Workshops –
If you are interested in learning more on Bilateral Integration, Jenny Cluning, Developmental Movement Therapist, is running a workshop on 16 and 17 September in Melbourne. Click here for details.
If you are interested in learning more about primitive reflexes and Rhythmic Movement and their role in cognition, click here for information from Evonne Bennell, neurodevelopmental specialist and kinesiologist, who is running a course in Perth on 6 & 7 October.