New studies on meditation, exercise reveal benefits to students, academics
May 25, 2012 • TJ Bryant, Staff Writer
Filed under Sports
If there was something a student could do in order to increase intelligence, academic performance, calmness, and improve multiple other traits, shouldn’t it be done? Well, it can be done. Studies are now showing countless positive effects on students who supplement their studies with alternatives such as meditation and aerobic exercise.
According to the Medical College of Georgia, students who meditated for 15 minutes, twice a day, significantly reduced their blood pressure over a four month period, compared to students who did not participate in meditation. Alongside this data, prestigious schools such as Harvard, Stanford, and UCLA, have shown that transcendental meditation actually eases stress, and improves both physical and mental behavior.
Teachers at Howell High School have also used these techniques to show students the positive effects it has.
“I like to incorporate meditation in my classes because of the significant role it plays throughout the world,” says Howell High School teacher and Lansing Community College Adjunct Professor Jay McDowell. “Even though I stress no one particular religion when teaching it, varying forms of meditation are found in countless religions.”
Meditation by itself is a very broad term. Some incorporate it within prayers, while others may use it to find internal peace. No matter how it is used, the end result is a much more relaxed state of mind that helps one focus throughout the day.
In the particular case of the studies being done, transcendental meditation is the form of meditation being used. Transcendental meditation consists of silently repeating a mantra, or phrase, for fifteen to twenty minutes. This technique was created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi many years ago and has been found scattered throughout classrooms since.
“Transcendental meditation is a simple mental technique that can have profound physiological effects,” says Gary Kaplan, neurologist at New York University School of Medicine. “It produces a state of restful alertness that provides the body with deep, rejuvenating rest and allows the mind to reach higher levels of creativity, clarity and intelligence.”
These techniques were even found to work in inner-city schools around the nation for decreasing levels of aggressive crimes committed. Studies show that meditating daily significantly decreased aggressiveness in inner-city children.
Although this in itself proves to be an amazing find, transcendental meditation is not the only way to improve schooling throughout the nation. A teacher at Howell High School is currently on his way to proving just that.
“In order improve information absorption in the brain, you need to prep it first,” says teacher Eric Schrock. “And after exercising, your brain is fully prepped.” Schrock is currently conducting experiments with his students on the effect of aerobic exercise, such as pedaling or walking on a treadmill, on brain function. Studies show that exercising increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical, that when combined with nerve impulses and knowledge, creates a prime moment for knowledge absorption.
“We have found when the heart rate is raised between 140-165 beats per minute, the brain is fully prepped and is at its full potential to learn,” Schrock said. “Directly after, the students read and we have found they absorb much more information.”
In order to gauge information absorption, students take the Scholastic Reading Inventory exam, which tests the students’ level of reading. Over time, students in the experiment showed improved results from when they initially took the exam. Some schools around the nation have even found that students who exercised before taking a test doubled their test scores.
Whether it is meditating during class, or hitting the gym before school, these alternatives have significant effects on countless students. Some of these studies have been around for years, but nothing has been done on a large enough scale to show serious change in U.S. schools. Maybe one day techniques such as these will be the game changer for American public schooling.