Review Article

The Mind Body Connection

Carol M Ciotto1* and Marybeth H Fede2

1Department of Physical Education and Human Performance, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT 06053, USA

2Department of Exercise Science, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT 06515, USA

*Corresponding author: Carol M Ciotto, Department of Physical Education and Human Performance Department, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT 06053, USA, Tel: +1 8603267333, +1 8608303731; E-mail:

Citation: Ciotto CM, Fede MH (2017) The Mind Body Connection. J Bone Muscles Stud 2017: 45-49. doi:

Received: 31 August, 2017; Accepted: 09 November, 2017; Published: 22 November, 2017


Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs, CSPAP, ( or Physically Active School Systems, PASS, as referred to in Connecticut, Ciotto and Fede [1] are frameworks by which teachers can engage students in physical activity in the classroom, with the results being increased cognition, time on task, focus and attention and a decrease in absenteeism and behavioral issues. In order to utilize these frameworks to their fullest, faculty need to understand the connection between the mind and the body. These types of programs not only enhance cognition, but ultimately can have a positive effect on childhood obesity [2].

The effects of the mind body connection have been around for a long time [3-5]. More recently, positive connections between fitness-based physical education and increased cognition have been researched such as the Naperville Central High School's Learning Readiness Physical Education Program [6]. This is a revolutionary before-school fitness-based physical education program which helped to put this school district of 19,000 children, first in the world in science, and significantly increased their scores in math and language arts [6].

There are positive relationships between physical activity and modestly improved cognition [7]. Dwyer et al., [7] studied Australian children between 7-15 years old and found that across age and sex, academic ratings were significantly correlated with measures of physical activity on the five health related components of fitness (Cardio-respiratory Endurance, Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, Flexibility and Body Composition). This research points to the notion that regular physical activity, in particular aerobic exercise, is the best defense for everything from mood disorders to Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD) to addiction, to menopause, to Alzheimer’s disease, and needs to be reframed as benefitting the brain just as much, if not more, than the body [6]!

CSPAP and PASS reinforce curriculum through movement, through such programs as the Active Schools [8], ABC’s of Fitness [9] and Action Based Learning [10]. Using interdisciplinary teaching strategies, such as these, and having a quality fitness-based physical education program could insure increased focus, retention, attendance, cognition, and fitness test scores.

All of these positive effects have the potential to make students healthier, and smarter, which leads to healthier active adults. A good understanding of the mind body connection, and various programs that are available, will help educators to meet and exceed national education standards. It will also contribute in producing students who have self-confidence and self-efficacy, along with positive social and emotional skills.

Being physically active is necessary in order to produce healthy well-adjusted students and later on, active adults as well as, combatting hypokinetic diseases and certain types of cancer [11].

A National Epidemic

A natural result of inactivity is obesity, which encompasses more than being overweight. It has a more severe and direct effect on one’s health. To be obese is to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile. Falling into this category often creates a negative self- image. This in turn has a negative effect on academic achievement. This growing condition produces a critical demand for quality and daily physical activity and fitness-based physical education throughout the school day. It is natural, and the right of every student to be able to move. It is necessary that the goal of all educators is to achieve an overall improved community that is conducive to a child’s freedom and safety in physical activity for their health, well-being, academic achievement and social acceptance.

Today’s youth are considered the most inactive generation in history and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics: Finklestein [12], adolescents who are overweight have an estimated 80% chance of being obese as adults; and, if overweight begins before age 8, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.

In addition, obesity kills more Americans each year than AIDS, cancer and injuries combined. At this rate, the current generation of children will not live as long as their parents. According to the CDC [13], physical activity levels vary within the United States:

  • About 1 in 5 (21%) adults meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.
  • Less than 3 in 10 high school students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • People who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.
  • Physical activity can also help with weight control, and may improve academic achievement in students.
  • Inactive adults have a higher risk for early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers.
  • More non-Hispanic white adults (23%) meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity than non-Hispanic black adults (18%) and Hispanic adults (16%).
  • Men (54%) are more likely than women (46%) to meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guideline for aerobic activity.
  • Younger adults are more likely to meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guideline for aerobic activity than older adults.

The benefits of being physically active students are increased cognition, focus, overall readiness to learn, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. It is the intent of the authors, through this article, to help all educators to understand and be able to feel comfortable using the powerful tool of movement to enhance students’ physical, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive abilities.

Although it is important that high quality fitness-based physical education programs exist within a school, it is only the beginning to solving the childhood obesity problem and how sedentary we as a nation have become!

Americans have a million excuses not to be physically active, with the number one reason being not enough time. Other barriers to full engagement include but are not limited to technology, multi-tasking, denial, self-deception and it’s easier not to! [14]. Educators need to understand the barriers and that it is not the stress that is bad, but rather the lack of recovery time that is not afforded to ourselves or our students. Students need to be fully engaged. Stress is not the enemy, it is how one grows, gets stronger, and produces energy. It is only when one fails to manage the recovery period properly that problems arise [15]. In this day and age of smart phones, I-pads, and information at our fingertips, we are so busy multi-tasking and trying to handle multiple stimuli; that we never really fully disengage. This is what is hazardous to health and well-being. Making excuses and telling ourselves the wrong story may give us meaning and significance, but it prevents real change, becoming fully engaged and disengaged. A difference can be made, one student at a time.

By understanding the barriers to full engagement, and including Gardner’s [16] eight multiple intelligences, and Glasser’s [17] five basic human needs in teaching is a great way to reach all the very different individuals that constitute a class. Furthermore, Lengel & Kuczala’s [18] framework for movement in the classroom, Blayde’s [10], action based learning, ABC’s for fitness, brain breaks in the classroom, Gilbert’s [19], brain dance, Ratey’s [6], Naperville, IL model, and before and after school programs which lead to community involvement, are all available tools that can help achieve the mission. Armed with these tools, reframing the story, collecting data, and disseminating the information to classroom teachers, administrators, board of education members, parents and most importantly students is what has to happen in order to see real change.

Movement, Exercise and Physical Activity

What is the difference between movement, exercise and physical activity? According to Blaydes [10], when studying brain research there are three specific areas of movement that should be considered: Movement, which is defined as the act of moving ones location or position; physical activity, defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure; and exercise, defined as physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body.

The two areas of movement that would be most beneficial to learners are physical fitness and kinesthetic activities as they help to secure academic concepts and increase cognitive achievement. According to Blaydes [10], movement can help to prepare the brain for ideal learning.

Early research dealing with physical activity and cognition showed that physical activity enriches the learning environment; physical fitness is positively related to academic performance, and aerobic fitness aids cognition [20-23]. More recent research has documented the positive benefits physical activity/movement and exercise, have on cognition. Ratey [6], explained how he began using various types of physical activity and exercise with his patients as a way of treating them for various medical issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. His research also included the effect that aerobic exercise has on academic success. As a result of engaging in consistent and sustained aerobic exercise, new neurological pathways can be created in the brain.

According to Lengel and Kuczala, Ratey [6,18] movement should be fully immersed in both the classroom and in the physical education setting in order to take full advantage of the many benefits it provides such as differentiated instruction, increased retention, motivation, attention and engagement in the learning process. According to Olshansky [24], students who are emotionally and physically healthy are more likely to increase performance on tests, increase concentration and attendance, and less likely to engage in risky or disruptive behaviors. Exercise also has the potential to improve learning on three different levels: It helps to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; it prepares nerve cells to receive new information; and it encourages the continued development of new nerve cells [6].

According to Kelly, Kelly and Franklin [25,26], by addressing the need for more physical activity throughout the school day and by increasing awareness of the many benefits it brings, there’s a possibility we can begin to reverse the adverse effects of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and the declining test scores across the nation

Implicit and Explicit Learning

According to Lengel and Kuczala [18], two important keys to improved cognition for educators to understand are the difference between implicit and explicit learning and certain principles the brain seeks out. First, explicit learning occurs on a very conscious level, often through reading, lecture, listening, discussion and work sheets. Second, implicit learning involves more neural pathways and sensory cues, which allow the brain to learn more quickly and remember more accurately. Implicit learning often occurs through movement, life experiences and emotions, and is the preferred way for the brain to acquire information.

The brain seeks novelty and likes to operate from concrete experiences. It tries to make meaning through questioning i.e., does this make sense? Emotions and the movement of the body and objects in the environment both contribute to an enhanced learning experience.

Movement enhances the teaching/learning process in a variety of ways, including: improving brain function, increasing circulation, refocusing attention, enhancing episodic memory, reducing sitting time (which produces blood pooling and the release of melatonin), changing the brain chemically, providing breaks from learning, (as well as a motivational framework for learning and an opportunity for implicit learning), and stimulating neurogenesis (through prolonged aerobic activity).

In addition, movement is the best available manager of state. State management refers to one’s ability to manage the brain and body’s physical, mental, and emotional states. By understanding the brains need to manage state the educator can better understand students’ limited attention spans, their need to self-regulate mood, and the mind/body state that influences the process of meaning making [6,9,18,27,28]. Knowing this information and all of the other benefits that are associated with movement substantiates the need for physical activity and movement in the classroom [18].

Educators and administrators need to understand that from the time of birth we learned to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, and were given many accolades for these achievements. Upon entering school however, the tone changed and we were told to sit still and be quiet. This goes against everything our bodies need to do. Physical activity/movement, music, and novelty are relatively simple means to manage state, and help students make a much smoother transition to the very still and stifled environment in a school setting.

As the teacher/facilitator it is important to understand and apply the five basic human needs [17] the eight multiple intelligences [16], and simple brain principles [18] to the learning environment.

Movement creates a joyful atmosphere in the classroom, and Kuczala [18] provides a framework of movement for teachers to follow. He advocates six purposes for movement which include:

  1. Preparing the Brain.
  2. Providing Brain Breaks.
  3. Class Cohesion Activities.
  4. Support of Exercise and Fitness.
  5. Attaching Kinesthetic Activity to Content.
  6. Movement-Oriented Content Games (Reviewing Content).

Overall, movement in the classroom helps to support relationships, relevance and/or meaning making, and rigor. Table 1 outlines how to implement Kuczala’s [18] framework for movement model in the classroom. By focusing on the needs of every individual student, there is a greater likelihood of improved cognition.

Preparing the Brain

There is a connection between a well-developed sense of spatial awareness and abstract thinking. The young brain needs to activate this system so movement and cognitive growth can develop [28]. Another key in getting the brain ready to learn is proper hydration, and crossing the mid-line of the body. Cross lateralization games such as, “gotcha” and “interlocking finger find” help develop both sides of the brain; each side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body [10]. Gilbert’s [20] Brain Dance is composed of eight fundamental movement patterns we are programmed to move through from 0-12 months which wire the central nervous system. The dance uses tactile, visualization, vestibular development and cross lateralization all in one simple, fun activity that is an excellent full body and brain warm-up that can be performed in limited space areas safely. This would be a great addition to the morning announcements to help reorganize the brain and get the body physiologically ready to learn!;

Providing Brain Breaks

Shorter is always better. Brain breaks provide necessary content breaks, state management, re-focusing attention, getting up to avoid blood pooling and secretion of melatonin, and incorporating fun and novelty into a lesson. The following are a few examples you can use: Handshake Creation: stand up move around and greet as many people as possible with a new handshake, in the allotted time. Singles Gotcha: Find a partner and face them. Place pointer finger in partners palm and they do the same. On the teachers signal “go”, each person simultaneously tries to grab the other person’s pointer finger and pull theirs away. Rock Paper Scissors: Partners use this long time game to hone their addition, subtraction and multiplication skills. Instead of shooting rock paper scissors, the partners try to guess the combination of numbers thrown out by each individual (+, x, -). The Teachers Manual ABC’s for fitness.

Class Cohesion

This serves to build relationship skills, teamwork, and cooperation, with a little friendly competition, when warranted, in a fun environment. Balloon Pop: 2 equal circles joined together by holding hands or interlocking elbows. The object is for the group to keep a balloon in the air and not let go of the person next to them. You may add more than one balloon. Group Juggle: A name learning game that establishes a pattern by always throwing to the same person, (calling their name) and receiving from the same person (thanking them by name), in a circle formation with the only rule being you cannot throw to the persons on either side of you. The teacher gradually adds more objects and the class is now juggling! The Kinesthetic Classroom.

Support of Physical Activity, Exercise, & Fitness

Ratey [6] gives you all the support you need to promote physical activity, movement, and aerobic exercise, not only in school, but district wide: Aerobic exercise was as effective as antidepressants in one landmark study. The Naperville Illinois fitness program helped put one US school district of 19,000 students first in the world in science. Aerobic exercise sparks new brain-cell growth. Ratey JA Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

Teaching New Content

Learning new content and trouble- shooting problem areas in Math, Science, English and Geography, such as the water cycle, language rules, slap counting, and map reading; [10]; Finding the circumference and diameter of a circle, understanding the sugar-insulin-insulin resistance relationship;; The Kinesthetic Classroom; for grades 1-3; Leaping into Literacy.

Reviewing Content

A silent review game that involves many different content areas while students get up and move to exchange questions with other students. An active, joyful way to review content. Many educators love the idea of students being active, while on task, and quiet all in one activity.

Table 1: Teaching Strategies for Active Learners: A Framework for Movement for Teachers.


National Standards for Physical Activity

Motivating students to make a lifestyle change can be a difficult task. Making changes that are simple and realistic can be the most effective way to help students accomplish this task. Schools have the unique opportunity to foster this change by infusing physical activity throughout the school day, (before, during and after school) making it a part of their everyday routines.

Imbedding opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day will instill a sense of importance for healthy behavior while improving cognition and academic success.

The goal is for all children to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, with at least 30 minutes attained at school [13,29]. Schools are a key setting for students to get their 60 minutes of physical activity, given the amount of time spent there. Schools can provide a variety of strategies and approaches to help students become more physically active, that include quality physical education programs and opportunities within the school that increases access to physical activity for all students to be physically active not just during physical education class but throughout the day. Students can get most of their physical activity through a quality fitness-based physical education program that is complemented by activities before, during, and after school, recess, physical activity breaks, intramural programs, interscholastic sports, and walking or biking to and from school.

Schools play a key role in shaping the social and physical development of their students. Let’s pull out all the stops to give children the best chance to be smart, healthy contributing members of society, by providing them with a truly interdisciplinary, holistic education.


In conclusion the authors believe that this is a subject that requires additional quantitative research. Students are not getting as much physical activity as is there right! Research dictates that it is important to establish good physical activity habits as a child, early on, so the effect will be to nourish and flourish the mind and body as adults! It is critical that we take the steps now to educate and make a change in students’ lives to help them lead a healthier, more productive life. According to the National Association of Sport and Physical Education [28], physical activity can produce physical, psychological, and social benefits and children who are inactive are more likely to become inactive adults. It is critical that steps are taken to this end. Without change this generation of children is slated to have a shorter lifespan then their parents [30].


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