Extraordinary athletes know the extraordinary power of physical activity to reshape your mind, and the mind's power to transform your body.
"If you ever lack the motivation to train, then think what happens to your mind and body when you don't," says ShifuYan Lei, who teaches Shaolin Qigong, a system of coordinated body posture, movement, breathing, and meditation that promotes health and spirituality.
Golfer Sam Snead put it another way: "Practice puts brains in your muscles."
And tennis great Martina Hingis said, "I didn't have the same fitness or ability as other girls, so I had to beat them with my mind."
It turns out that the complex relationship between body and mind is as real for kids as for pros. An analysis of 19 studies involving 8,676 children and teens shows that when school physical education (PE) programs are upgraded, kids' brainpower and math skills increase.
Interestingly, it doesn't make a difference if the number or length of PE sessions increases. What makes a difference is if the PE classes added cognitively challenging activities like dance or martial arts, the lessons were led by a PE specialist, or the PE sessions involved high-intensity activities, sports, and team games.
The researchers, writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suspect the benefits come from neurobiological, psychological, and behavioral changes that happen when kids engage mind and body while physically active.
As the world opens up, have a talk with school administrators about the academic advantages kids gain from robust PE classes.
You can also explore ways to help your child get such benefits through participation in after-school activities, teams, and classes.