home
RSS
April 12th, 2010
03:48 PM ET

Studying the link between exercise and learning

By Elizabeth Mo
CNN Medical News Intern

Parents expect their child to work when they are sent to college, not work out. However, recent findings suggest exercise belongs in the classroom.

When Wendy Suzuki, associate professor of neuroscience, went to the gym, she noticed it was easier for her to remember facts and write grant proposals. She took this simple observation and transformed it into a course at New York University in which students perform aerobic exercises for one hour followed by one hour of lecture.

To see if exercise did improve memory and learning, Suzuki also designed another course where the lecture was the same, but there was no exercise component. At the beginning of the semester, students from both classes performed a simple test to measure the activity of the part of the brain responsible for learning. The dentate gyrus is a region of the hippocampus critical for retaining long term memory for facts and events. Exercise can target the dentate gyrus. At the end of the semester, the students performed the test again.

After comparison, “The results were significant,” Suzuki said. The test requires students to pick a certain geometric shape from other similar geometric shapes. Student who had exercised completed the test faster than their counterparts. Most studies examine the relationship between exercise and learning in the elderly; very few focus on young age groups.

“It’s pretty different, I wasn’t sure what it would be like.” said Andrew Sideris, an NYU senior, “I was happy to take it. It was a little weird, but a lot of fun.” Students such as Sideris have embraced the class. Casey Farin, another NYU senior, said, “I learned a lot about what happens to the brain when you exercise. Most people think about what happens in your muscles and heart.” She added, “I would definitely recommend this class to my friends.”

“Exercise and the Brain,” as the course is called, is not only an experiment studying the link between learning and exercise. It is also an experiment in education. It’s not recess, and it’s not quite PE. It’s something different. A course mandating exercise as part of its curriculum is unlike anything seen at any educational institution. But NYU is known for alternative classes and methods. For example, another course is devoted to playing and studying Guitar Hero.

When Suzuki first proposed the course to university administration, “They were enthusiastic.” Suzuki hopes to pave the way for a similar course at other universities as well as high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.

The link between learning and exercise has long been established, but it’s difficult to find the application of such knowledge in today’s society. PE and recess are rapidly disappearing across the nation. According to the American Heart Association, only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education programs or some equivalent. Suzuki said, “You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you take away PE because you say students need to study.” As her class has shown, exercise is an important factor in learning.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 12th, 2010
10:40 AM ET

Committee begins scrutinizing WHO’s response to H1N1

by Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

Health experts convening in Geneva, Switzerland, began its review of the World Health Organization’s response to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus Monday.

The committee will examine the ongoing global response to the pandemic H1N1 and to identify lessons learned about preparedness and response for future pandemics and public health emergencies.  The review committee is made of 29 experts in various aspects of public health, science and infectious diseases.

The WHO has been criticized for its handling of the pandemic with accusations that it exaggerated the flu’s threat after the virus spread globally last April.

“We want a frank and critical assessment,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general.  “WHO is not defining or restricting the scope of specific issues that may arise. If our member states have questions or concerns, we want to hear these questions and concerns raised.”  Her statement.

The review committee is expected to submit a preliminary report to the World Health Assembly in May.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

Advertisement
Advertisement