Movement Changes the Brain

Submitted By:
Jessica Williams, International School of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Dr. Jennifer Heisz "Move Your Body, Heal Your Mind" by Jonathan Fields
Good Life Podcast, July 14, 2022

On Jonathan Fields' Good Life Project podcast, Dr. Jennifer Heisz, an author and Associate Professor at McMaster University, explains why many of the behaviors we establish and model for our children are counterproductive. Much of what Heisz unpacks in this podcast interview can be connected to Annie Murphy Paul's The Extended Mind: both researchers highlight the relationship between physical movement and productivity/creativity. As such, they also challenge the design of sedentary cognitive tasks and the urging of students to "grind it out," as both approaches limit the capacity to innovate. Heisz further advocates for unstructured play where mental flexibility and inhibitory control align to create a "flow state." She also recommends taking a two-minute movement break every half hour in order to restore blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, which will both enhance focus and allow access to deeper insights. Additionally, Heisz discusses her extensive research into how movement changes the brain to reduce stress and anxiety. As increasingly more educators and institutions seek out sustainable ways to support faculty and student wellness, Hesiz's work is an important reminder to embed physical activity into our own teaching and work-life practices. Stop working – stop reading even – and go for a walk.

Student Wellness & Safety
Science of Learning
Teaching Practice