The Learning Brain: Memory and Brain Development in Children

By Torkel Klingberg; Neil Betteridge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Body and Soul

Every day, the children at Naperville Central High School near Chicago put on their heart rate monitors before the day’s physical education lesson. On occasion, it involves a twokilometer run. However, it’s not how quickly they complete the course that’s important; it’s the effort they put into running it, as revealed by the monitor. The heart rate can be expressed in terms of a percentage of the maximum pulse, whereby eighty percent or more of maximum is ideal for increasing oxygen uptake. The pupils naturally differ in terms of muscle strength and oxygen uptake capacity, but in expressing performance as a percentage of maximum heart rate, the teacher can confirm that everyone has at least tried. Each child competes against his or her own results, and as long as the child improves he or she gets higher grades.

This school has been a pioneer in designing physical exercise programs for school children. The programs were the brainchild of a physical education teacher in response to the alarming statistics showing that children are becoming progressively overweight. Thirty percent of all children in the United States are judged to be overweight, six times more than in 1980. The corresponding figure in many European countries is lower, but still some twenty percent of teenagers fall into the overweight bracket.

What makes the Naperville program noteworthy is not only that it has increased the amount of training but also that it focuses on cardiovascular training rather than specific sports. And it’s the

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