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The Secret to Boosting the Brain Through Exercise

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We check out Brainy Moves studio to learn their secret to brain boosting exercise that can improve behaviour and academic performance

We all know exercise is good for us and can be a great stress reliever, but did you know it’s actually been proven to boost the brain and enhance learning abilities? How cool is that?! And it’s not just us saying that mamas, it’s Harvard Medical School professor Dr John Ratey (who happens to a special advisor to Singapore’s own Brainy Moves training centre). Numerous studies have shown that complex exercise can enhance all of the following abilities:

  • Reading and comprehension
  • Focus and concentration
  • Analytical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Emotional control

So what’s complex exercise? It’s not just going for a run or riding a bicycle, it’s a precise set of movements – like waving your arms in opposite directions while you march in place, or hopping over obstacles while you also toss a ball in the air. There are all sorts of customised, personalised workouts that can boost the creation of new brain cells and also improve neuro-plasticity (the strengthening of existing cells).


We recently visited Brainy Moves’ bright, colourful studio and came away not only stimulated and energised (as they actually put us through our paces with some of their exercises!), but impressed by the results they’ve produced – particularly among students with special needs like Autism, ADHD, and more – and the amount of thought and research that’s gone into creating their novel and innovative curriculum.

The backstory is a good one: owner/founder James Tang previously worked for the Ministry of Education, teaching math and physical education to secondary school children. He was also in charge of discipline, and oversaw classes with the worst academic performers (many of whom had behavioural problems). One year he happened to teach math to students immediately following their PE class, and he noticed that they were calmer, more focused, and better able to listen. Their academic performance improved markedly compared to other classes he’d seen – none of them failed their secondary four exams, and some even got A’s! Their disciplinary punishments also went down.

This was when Tang started getting interested in the connection between exercise and mental performance, which led him to Dr. Ratey’s best-selling book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “I ploughed through it in a week,” says Tang, and it seems SPARK has become something of his bible (and Dr. Ratey his hero). Through more comprehensive research on brain science, he also learned that not all forms of exercise benefit the brain equally; some have more impact than others.

He decided to apply the learnings of Dr. Ratey and other neuroscientists to his training of students privately. After a year, the results were so fantastic (including improved academic performance and calmer behavior) that parents of his students – so impressed by the changes they’d seen in their kids – asked him to open a studio. And so Brainy Moves was born in early 2014. (Be sure to check out the success stories on their website for even more raves from happy parents, mama!).


Fast forward two years and Tang is back working with the MOE – this time as a consultant at various schools around Singapore, including a pilot project for ADHD students at a local primary school. The other Brainy Moves coaches also hold qualifications in exercise science, and one coach holds a degree in Psychology; add in that there’s a 6:2 student-teacher ratio and you can be confident your kiddos are getting plenty of topnotch attention, mamas.

“The more we use the brain through complex exercise, the stronger it becomes”, Tang says. The Brainy Moves programme isn’t just fab for kids (although it certainly does boost confidence, help them harness their emotional control, and improve listening skills and concentration – all of which are huge factors in academic success); it’s also great for adults and even seniors keen to stay sharp. Brainy Moves offers classes for children age 3 & up (maybe to 103?).

And it seems all of James Tang’s efforts have paid off: last year his hero, Dr John Ratey, visited Singapore to give several lectures, including one supported by Sport Singapore and another at the National Institute of Education. He also met with the Brainy Moves team to observe their work and advise on their curriculum. He was so impressed that he agreed to become an ongoing adviser to the company.

“I am a big supporter of Brainy Moves”, Dr Ratey said. “It is a well thought-out and powerful programme that incorporates activities that improve balance, flexibility, coordination and rhythm, and leads to a better behaved, better organised, and better performing child”.

So whether your munchkin just wants to burn off some excess energy, mama, or you’d like to help them sharpen their listening or analytics skills, give Brainy Moves a try and we bet you’ll come away as impressed as Dr Ratey!

Brainy Moves, 80 Changi Road #03-20 (Centropod @ Changi), Singapore 419715, Tel: (+65) 6440 0468

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