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Park Your Car, ‘Spark’ Your Brain

A gym teacher in Napierville, Illinois made a surprising discovery: kids who exercised before taking tests performed better than their classmates who didn't.

I’ve been on a reading frenzy this winter, reading books on urban planning, bicycling, and now exercise, the latter in the form of Dr. John Ratey’s ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.’

It’s his thesis that physical exercise isn’t just good for the body, it’s even better for the brain. We learn faster and retain more AFTER a good physical workout, as demonstrated by junior high and high school kids in Naperville, Illinois, where a gym teacher named Neil Duncan made a serendipitous discovery: kids who exercised before taking tests performed better than those who hadn’t worked out. That discovery eventually evolved into transforming physical education classes from their focus on team sports to physical fitness, where students are graded not on their physical process, but on how hard they try. The Naperville District 203 program produces not only healthy, well-balanced kids (incidences of student fighting also drop dramatically), but bright ones as well. When taking a global test for eighth grade students called TIMSS, Naperville’s kids (97% of them took the test) ranked sixth in math behind Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. In science, they were first: number one in the world out of the 38 countries that competed.

What’s the lesson here, apart from making sure school districts don’t cut their PE programs? Exercise helps reduce stress and improve your ability to think, learn and retain information, and is yet another good reason to park that car and get on a bike, electric-assist or otherwise.

Posted By: Bill Moore [17-Mar-2013]