In CrossFit, ExPhysiology, Kids, Videos

February 02, 2011

Video Article

“So it might be pretty obvious that CrossFit is all about (the) musculoskeletal system, cardiorespiratory system, but what isn’t as obvious is the effect of exercise on the brain,” says Dr. Jon Gary, a member of CrossFit Kids. According to Dr. Gary, CrossFit Kids gives us a unique opportunity to enhance a child’s brain development.

“CrossFit Kids cross-trains the brain,” he says.

Dr. Gary’s aim is to help children move better through CrossFit Kids and help develop each child’s brain at the same time.

“Athletic performance is solving a problem. Whether it’s moving your body through space or an external object through space, you have to solve a problem. And it’s not your muscles that do the solving, OK. It’s your brain,” he says.

Another reason exercise is so important is a child’s vestibular development, or spacial awareness, which stimulates an emotional center of the brain.

“It’s extremely important for us in our programming that we activate the vestibular system on a daily basis,” Dr. Gary says.

13min 32sec

Additional reading from the lecture includes:

Dr. V. Ramachandran: TED video V.S. Ramachandran on Your Mind
Dr. John Ratey: Spark
Dr. John Medina: Brain Rules
Dr. Oliver Sacks: OliverSacks.com

Additional reading in the CrossFit Journal: How to Build a Better Neural Highway by Cyndi Rodi, published April 2, 2009.

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15 Comments on “CrossFit Kids: Exercise and Brain Function”

1

wrote …

Finally!

Jon's section of the CF Kids cert was the main bit missing from the Journal and there was so much information there.

2

wrote …

Woops!

Thank-you.

3

Bob Guere wrote …

Agreed..... Jon is a treasure chest of (mostly) useful information.

4

wrote …

Great presentation. I know there is a lot of negative opinions out there about kids working out, so this is great. Keep up the work and send out more information.

5

wrote …

I see this stuff in action every day. I arrive at CrossFit New England around 4pm most days, just as the CF kids classes are getting under way. It's amazing to see how these kids perform and improve day to day, and the cognitive benefits are just now being realized and asserted in the programming. It's great that community realizes that these kids ARE our future and we're taking great care of them.

The greatest expression of this that I've seen was the massively successful CF Kids competition CFNE hosted last weekend....the work these men and women are doing with CF kids is of paramount importance to CF, and our future as a whole.

Daigle

6

wrote …

Great video. Thanks for posting!

7

Bob Guere wrote …

"I see this stuff in action every day. I arrive at CrossFit New England around 4pm most days, just as the CF kids classes are getting under way. It's amazing to see how these kids perform and improve day to day, and the cognitive benefits are just now being realized and asserted in the programming. It's great that community realizes that these kids ARE our future and we're taking great care of them.

The greatest expression of this that I've seen was the massively successful CF Kids competition CFNE hosted last weekend....the work these men and women are doing with CF kids is of paramount importance to CF, and our future as a whole.

Daigle
"

Great post...and it's so awesome to hear about other affiliates kids programs.

Everyone, if you see a great kids program, please post about it on FB, etc. Have that affiliate send info to CFK HQ also.

8

wrote …

I love the science stuff. Keep it coming Jon!

9

wrote …

I like this guy but he needs to watch John Medina lecture!

He accidentally called the amygdala vestigial. It certainly is not vestigial, quite the opposite. It functions in humans in much the same way that it does other animals and is an integral part of almost everything our brain does.

10

wrote …

A great overview into the benefits of CFK training for more than the typical musculoskeletal benefits. However, the last few seconds seem to suggest that there are NO studies supporting the cognitive benefits of exercise - aerobic or otherwise - in children. Here are a few:
Zairi, A., 2007. Raising children's learning and performance: a study in a large UK school. PhD Thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.
Jordan-Black, J.-A., 2005. The effects of the Primary Movement programme on the academic performance of children attending ordinary primary school. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 5(3), 101–111.
Wallick, Michael D. 1998. A comparison study of the Ohio proficiency test results between 9 and 10 year old students learning to play musical instruments outside of class and those of matched ability. Journal of Research in Music Education, 46 (2), 239-247.
Parham, L. D., 1998. The Relationship of Sensory Integrative Development to Achievement in Elementary Students: Four-Year Longitudinal Patterns. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research; 18 (3), 105-27
Dewey, D, B.J. Kaplan, S.G. Crawford, and B.N. Wilson, 2002. Developmental coordination disorder: Associated problems in attention, learning, and psychosocial adjustment. Human Movement Science, 21, 905–918.
Iversen S, Berg, K., Ellertsen, B., & Tonnessen, F. E. (2005) Motor Coordination Difficulties in a Municipality Group and in a Clinical Sample of Poor Readers. Dyslexia., Volume 11, Number 3, August, pp. 217-231(15).

There are many studies that attribute causatory effects to the enhancement of brain areas, chemistry, and function but did not specifically measure cognitive improvement. At the very least, these studies show that the POTENTIAL for improved cognition, memory, and executive function exist in groups exposed to appropriate exercise for their developmental age.
We've been implementing these methods successfully for several months with adults who have suffered traumatic brain injury (impaired executive function and working memory) and a few autistic youth. Privacy laws in Canada prohibit publication of their names. However, we've just concluded a study with a local Board of Education and will embark on a larger one March 1, comparing 10th-grade math students who use these exercises to a control who use the typical curriculum.
Thanks, Dr. Gary, and we hope to prove that even greater benefits are yet to be uncovered!

11

replied to comment from chris cooper

He never said there was a lack of evidence supporting the cognitive benefits of exercise for kids, it was his entire point. Watch the video again.

He was instead addressing the use of the opposite hand in contra-lateral drills and the lack of studies citing benefit for said methods. He agreed a training effect would occur but had not found any research supporting the method(s) for general cognitive function.

12

wrote …

Chris-
Brian has correctly addressed your misunderstanding. There are references for contra-lateral drills helping certain disadvantaged populations (TBIs, learning disorders, ect.) but I have not found any that espouse the benefits in a general population wrt to cognition. Training handedness or improvement in coordination was all I've come across.

Brian-
Yes, use of vestigial was my mistake; the amygdala is anything but that.

13

wrote …

Great stuff. That's all i can say...this is powerful information me. I have yet to be exposed to any material citing exercise as a means to increase development in children. I love it...keep it coming.

14

wrote …

Dr. Gary - I'm sure it's my misunderstanding. The studies I've cited here are, I believe, complementary to your message, not contradictory. We have data from our work in-house with clients with autism and brain injury. These are individual cases, but the response to cross-body movement has been convincing enough to warrant three separate insurance companies (and several local physiotherapists, pathologists, and O/Ts) supporting the program now. I personally believe that programs like CFK have a far greater benefit to the brain than is currently reflected in the literature, and can't wait to see where this goes. Thanks again,

15

Ian Mehr wrote …

I love this stuff. It makes me want to become a CrossFit Kids Coach...

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