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Fitness

For years, scientists believed that after development, the human brain contained a finite number of neurons.  However, biologists now know that not only are new neurons formed within the brain, but also exercise actually stimulates neurogenesis. In large part, this is due to the exercise-induced release of a chemical that reinforces the brain’s infrastructure called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This neurotrophin acts on the brain and “nourishes neurons like fertilizer” (Ratey & Haberman, 2008, pp. 38-39).

With the help of BDNF, exercise can stimulate the neurogensis. These newly formed neurons migrate primarily from the hippocampus to other regions of the brain as needed.  Initial studies show that these neurons can be incorporated into new learning of information. However, just learning new information during neurogenesis shows a remarkably limited scope for transfer of knowledge. So far, preliminary studies in animals indicate the newly formed neurons are much more likely to be incorporated into broader transferable knowledge when accompanied by exercise (Reynolds, 2012). 

Rise Up is dedicated to assisting students in learning within the classroom, while also preparing students to learn with the highest rate of interconnected knowledge possible. Everyday, Rise Up will begin with a fitness component to prepare students for their academic learning for the day. Each day a variety of fitness activities are planned for the students to self-select. These challenge the students with sports they may not have previously encountered. Students come to the new sport on a level playing field. All students are learning together which helps foster a community atmosphere. Further, by rotating the sports, a variety of skills are employed which gives different students a chance to excel at different sports. Given the population of students, basketball is intentionally omitted since this is the dominant sport for this demographic.

Sports tentatively scheduled include whiffle ball, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, touch rugby, tennis, mat ball (a variation of kickball), and capture the flag. Monday through Thursday, walking is always an option as a safe alternative to the slightly more active sports. This is intended to make sure that all participants have access to some degree of physical fitness activity.

Sources
Ratey, J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Reynolds, G. (2012, April 18). How exercise could lead to a better brain.  New York Times Magazine, Retrieved from website.