July is Parks and Recreation Month!

Get Outside and Improve Your Brain Health

Thinking about ways to strengthen your body AND mind this summer? Look no further than your local park to boost your physical and mental health! July is Park and Recreation month, which is a great reminder to get outside and enjoy all that your community green spaces have to offer. 

Fight Zoom Fatigue and Boost Brain Function

As many of us can attest to from the past year, finding time to be in nature has provided much-needed respite from the increased screen time we’ve been experiencing. Avoiding screens and prioritizing movement for at least a few minutes a day may have been our solution to combating Zoom fatigue, but did you know that exercise can also lead to better cognitive function? 

Exercise and Learning

Studies have shown that exercise can actually enhance our ability to learn. The Mayo Clinic writes, “In one study, when teachers added exercise routines to math lessons — called motor-enriched learning — math scores improved faster for the exercisers than for the kids who didn’t exercise during the lesson. Other studies have found that exercise helps improve reading comprehension, too.” Do you have a summer reading book that you’re getting ready to tackle or a standardized test coming up? Why not pack your books and a picnic, lace up your sneakers, and go explore that local park you’ve been eyeing all year! 

Enhance Your Memory

People who exercise regularly also have better memories than those who don’t exercise. Having a sharp memory is not only good for getting an A on a test, but it’s an essential part of learning and making connections in school and beyond. Ever heard of neuroplasticity? This is the ability for your brain to adapt and change, which is a major component to learning. The Cleveland Clinic notes that neuroplasticity is enhanced through exercise, which increases the function of the hippocampus and our ability to remember things. 

Start Small

If physical activity is new to you, map out a short route in your local park or neighborhood and see where it takes you. Even just starting with a few minutes a day might be the boost you need to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine. In her TED Talk, Wendy Suzuki even compares exercise to a “401(k) for your brain.” She explains that a commitment to exercise just 3 to 4 days a week can have a lasting impact on your future brain (yup, you can pat yourself on the back later when you can tackle that New York Times Sunday crossword in one sitting).

For many of us, summer is a chance to rest, reboot, and recharge; but that’s no excuse to sit around and do nothing. Finding ways to keep your brain engaged while doing things that are both fun and inspiring is a great way to keep learning while also feeling like you’re getting the respite you need. If you’re thinking about the dreaded “summer slide” or preparing to take a standardized test in the fall or beginning a new challenging course load, taking time to exercise can actually help you gear up for new learning experiences. So use July’s Park and Recreation Month to get out there and explore — why not rent a kayak, swim in a lake, or hike a new trail? You’ll be helping your body and brain in more ways than you think.

Article by Kyla Graves

Kyla holds a BA in Hispanic Studies and English from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts and an MA in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University. Her career has largely been dedicated to helping families find the right match in independent schools through the admissions process and most recently as a classroom English and history teacher. She is passionate about building meaningful relationships in and out of the classroom and fostering opportunities for racial equity through social justice initiatives.