PE is good for the brain too

20th April 2007 at 01:00
The media focus on the failure of local authorities to meet the Scottish Executive's target of two hours PE a week tends to concentrate on health and fitness issues.

It is critical that acknowledgement is equally afforded to the central part played by movement in brain development, cognition, behaviour and academic learning. A large percentage of children with developmental delay, under-achievement or learning difficulties (including children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, autistic spectrum disorders, ADD or ADHD) exhibit immaturity in the motor system. This impedes the development of gross and fine motor co-ordination and balance. Poor or imbalance in muscle tone, hyperactivity, poor or limited attention span and memory, poor eye muscle control and visual perception as well as poor auditory function and perception may prevail.

Research shows that a delay in motor development will inevitably be accom-panied by a delay in cognitive and social development. Areas of the brain formerly associated primarily with motor control and organisation are seen to be equally involved in its cognitive function. Adele Diamond, research professor in neuro-science at the University of British Columbia, points to the close inter-relationship between motor and cognitive development and the cerebellar and pre-frontal cortex.

Many children have insufficient movement experience and remain ill-equipped to meet educational demands. Beneficial gains may be identified in children through stimulation of the cerebellum, the pre-frontal cortex and the links between brain hemispheres. The neural plasticity of the brain allows for change supported by exercise and sports-related activities.

Clearly, it is important to bring to the forefront the significance of movement as a defining influence on brain development, behaviour, personal well-being and the access it provides to learning and subsequent achievement.

Sheila M Dobie Bilateral Integration Ltd, Balado House, Nr Kinross

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