Physical Exercises For Better Concentration and Learning

It’s a brand new year, the Iowa State Cyclones won a bowl game for the first time since 2009, the year I graduated high school, so thank goodness for that! That took way too long to happen. And for you Nebraska fans out there, you’re finally getting the coach of your dreams, so cheers to you too!

With the new year, comes a new semester in school for you kids and if you were hoping for better concentration or results from your children last semester, I have a few things you can do to increase performance in school. These are things that are so easy to do but people rarely implement it into action. The best way to implement these changes is to set a timer or reminder in your phone for a time of day you know you can take 10 minutes to complete these simple exercises.

When I explain this simple task to get increased concentration, focus, and behavior out of kids; people look at me like I’m insane. And what I tell them is that they need to build up their core stability. Meaning, their core musculature. Let me explain how this will help before you start looking at me like I’m insane…

Your motor (muscle) system is developed to higher levels before your cognitive (brain) system is. This is because movement is what builds up the brain. For a baby, with no movement they will get no brain development or at least improper brain development. Your motor and muscle systems are what’s going to give the brain the majority of its feedback for how to act, grow, and mature.

If you lack movement (exercise), your brain will not function to its highest ability. Anytime you are moving you are feeding your brain with stimulation and nutrition. Just like movement feeds the brain, the resting oscillations of your core muscles are also feeding the brain. Meaning, if you have more muscle tone you will be getting more input and stimulation to the brain which is going to lead to a better ability to focus, concentrate, and behave correctly. For kids with high body fat percentages, this is a problem and they need to get more core stability for not only physical benefits but also mental benefits. This can be the case for kids that are overweight/obese but also very skinny kids that lack muscle mass have the same issue.

Most kids can’t do the following exercises… or at least not for the desired amount of time. Their cores are much weaker than in kids from decades past and this could be part of the reason for increased ADHD, concentration, learning, and behavior issues. This mostly stems from a more inactive and sedentary lifestyle. Consistently doing these exercises would be a good first step to getting better results in school and at home before moving on to more complex brain development issues. But the key to this is actual implementation and consistently, you can’t just wish your way to a stronger core. You have to put in the work of about 10–15 minutes/day.

There are 3 core muscle exercises that I typically recommend in my office and 3 levels for each exercise: One lying on your back, one lying on your stomach, and one lying on your side. The goal is to be a Level 3 for all 3 exercises and you should consistently do these exercises every day until that is achieved. Then you will have an adequate core for not only learning and behavior issues but also limiting injuries with physical exercises. I have step by step pictures of the core stability exercises but they fit in awkwardly in the blog so I have not included them. I sent them out on my last email and if you’d like them just email me at and I will get them sent over to you!

Here’s to a happy and healthy new year by choice!

-Dr. Stephen Stinn

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