FROM THE: A VIEW FROM THE SHORE SERIES
This “View From the Shore” comes with a health warning….lol. It is science heavy, if you bear with it however it explains “Executive Function”. This is a crucial part of the psychology not only of children but of adults. It demonstrates that you can kick start your childs functionality in dealing with the situations which life may throw at them.
This is an essential skill when you are not there to guide and assist them. It attends to exercise in general but is specifically aimed at Kayaking because in the next few articles I will be tailoring them to the specific benefits of Kayaking/canoeing. So please bear with me whilst I set the foundation for a series of three more assessable and relevant articles. I fully recognise that this one particular article is tough going. The next three won’t be.!!!!!!!!!!
Going back to the time of the ancient Greeks, it has been believed that physical activity is linked in a very direct way to intellectual development.
However, it is only recently been studied systematically. In particular the relationship between exercise and childrens mental function is now being evaluated in a serious and scientific way.
A historical overview provided by Kirkendall (1986) sheds light on why this might be the case. His review of research published prior to 1985 revealed that a number of positive studies on the psychological benefits of physical activity were conducted during the 1950s and 1960s.
The re-emergence of interest in this subject stems largely from the health and wellness movement in the 1980s and 1990s, along with the emergence of academic degree programs specializing in exercise psychology, led to a renewed interest in evaluating the effects of exercise on psychological processes (Tomporowski 2006).
Comparatively less research has been conducted to assess how exercise influences children’s mental development. Several recent
experiments conducted both with adult humans and animals (Colcombe et al. 2004a, b; Pereira et al. 2007) provide evidence that exercise performed on a regular basis for several weeks alters brain functions that underlie cognition and arguably more importantly for parents, behaviour.
Physical activity results in a host of biological responses in both muscles and organs that, in turn, modify and regulate the structure and functions of the brain (Dishman et al. 2006).
Given that children respond to exercise in a fashion similar to adults, exercise experiences would have important implications for their education.
The purpose of the present review is to demonstrate and evaluate published studies that have examined the effects of physical activity and exercise on children’s intellectual function, cognitive abilities, and academic achievement—three outcome measures often targeted by educators as indices of children’s mental function.
The review consists of two parts: first, an overview of contemporary cognitive theory directed toward exercise; second, a description of cross-sectional and experimental studies conducted with children.
The Executive Function Hypothesis
Cognition is a general term that describes a number of underlying mental processes.
- Executive function, which involves scheduling, response inhibition a type of socialisation, planning, and working memory.
- Controlled processing, which requires the automatization of response sequences in other words a type of socialisation where your child builds a store of appropriate responses to given situation.(Chodzko-Zajko and Moore 1994);
- Visuospatial processing, which involves perceptual learning that is to say judging distance, assessing depth of water by colour, spotting obstacles like shallows, stones etc all essential tools for Kayaking and crucially these skills are transferable. They apply once they leave the aquatic environment. So transfer to other sports, riding a bike, playing football swimming etc. (Stones and Kozma 1989);
- Speed of Processing Girduso and Clifford 1978. Their analysis revealed that aerobic exercise, like Kayaking resulted in a moderately large effect on overall cognitive performance.
Executive functions are a crucial element in the everyday lives of all of us.
They are involved in planning and selecting strategies that organize goal-directed actions These can range from arranging a dinner menu to decisions at school, game strategies, who to play with, who NOT to play with and later in life work related decisions. (Das et al. 1994)
It is possible that the executive function hypothesis can be extended to predict exercise-related improvements in children’s cognitive function. Advances have been made relatively recently that provide an understanding of children’s brain development and the relation of specific brain regions to performance on cognitive tasks (Amso and Casey 2006; Casey et al. 2000; Diamond 2002).
There is evidence for a dramatic increase in gray matter volume in infancy and early childhood, which is followed between age 7 and young adulthood by decreases in gray matter in the frontal cortex and a protracted increase of myelination and connectivity (Giedd et al. 1999; Sowell et al. 1999, 2004).
Children’s development of executive function has been viewed for some time as the cornerstone for the emergence of both psychological processes and social behaviors.
A child who cannot effectively plan, update working memory, shift from one mental set to another, and inhibit impulsive behavior is
unlikely to be able to stay on task in the classroom and excel academically (St Clair-Thompson and Gathercole 2006).
Moreover, the ability to control or inhibit responses is purported to underlie children’s capacities to develop imagination, experience empathy, act creatively, and to self evaluate thoughts and actions (Barkley 1996). I will describe in the next section the results of exercise studies conducted with children and evaluate them in light of the executive function hypothesis.