How exercise improves learning

by Sheila Yonemoto, P.T.

Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave, Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. Sheila also offers a Qigong “Chinese Energy” exercise class. Your first class is FREE. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.

My eye doctor says that learning is affected by how an individual has trained their body to move. Movement skills affect how we use our eyes and process visual information and create the foundation for the finer control of the eye muscles and subsequent learning abilities. Since she works with children with visual difficulties, she sees how important these movement skills are. 

       We are all born with primitive reflexes designed to help us in the first months of life. These reflexes disappear as we develop strength, coordination and control of our bodies, but can reappear after a stroke or head trauma. Parents and teachers can help integrate these primitive reflexes by encouraging movement skills to develop strength, balance, eye-hand coordination and timing. 

       Adults with head trauma also have problems processing visual information which can affect reading, walking without bumping into furniture and other visual tasks. Adults age 50+ who have had physical education classes in school and played outside while growing up performed better or had an easier time relearning than those who were in their 20's when they had the head trauma. These older adults had a better foundation in their movement skill development than the younger patients who grew up with computers and video games and spent less time playing outside.  

       Children's outdoor activities help develop more body strength, eye-hand coordination, balance and better physical fitness. Games like hopscotch, jump rope, playing with jacks, climbing and playing with balls all contribute to balance, coordination, timing, strength and fine motor skill development. The large muscles of the body create the foundation for the finer skills needed for the eyes. Infants need to go through various stages of development so these primitive reflexes get integrated into the nervous system. Oftentimes, parents are anxious for their child to walk early, but there are good reasons for the crawling stage. 

       Especially now, in this age of computers with emphasis on intellectual pursuits, we must make sure we include a healthy dose of physical activity in our children’s lives. Perhaps this would be a good thing for all of us, no matter our age.



Nov 2021


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