The better off a country is, the more active it is. Indeed, a study found that students from a wealthy nation exercise more than those from a poor country who have higher priorities than exercising. However, every rule has an exception, and the exception to the rule here is South Korea.
The World Health Organization (WHO) research of physical activity levels of students aged between 11 and 17 from 146 countries is alarming. South Korea ranked bottom with 94 percent of the students not exercising enough. It was behind Cambodia and Sudan. The problem was more pronounced in female students with 97.2 percent of them not getting enough exercise. The WHO singled out Seoul as an exception where the majority of students do not exercise enough despite its high national income.
However, the research results did not make big news in South Korea. The reason is, of course, college admission. Most people seem to think that nothing can be done about this as studying should take priority over exercising.
Resolving this issue would require a thorough analysis from various perspectives, but looking at it from a “brain” standpoint can help us to understand this issue and find a way out. According to studies by the likes of Harvard Medical School, exercise triggers biological changes connecting and generating brain cells, which explains why students study better after exercise. In fact, students at the Naperville Central High School, a public high school in the United States, achieved the highest scores in math and science in a global competition after they started running 1.6 kilometers in the morning before class. All this points to the importance of exercise in boosting the brainpower.
Exercise also affects the emotional functions of the brain. It soothes and invigorates a tired brain. In addition, researchers say exercise is the best cure to depression. Ultimately, what it does is to prep the brain to function to the best of its ability. Being active can also make students more sociable. The fourth industrial revolution requires us to be smarter, emotionally stable and empathetic. “This is why sports need to be ‘taught’ and will make South Korea more competitive going forward,” said Prof. Jeon Yong-bae of Dankook University.
The lack of public awareness definitely contributes to the issue, but the bigger problem lies in the lack of commitment from the government. The South Korean Ministry of Education has 49 departments, none of which is dedicated to physical education. It says it will focus less on nurturing a handful of elite athletes and more on promoting club activities, but they have been nothing but empty words. It says that there is not enough equipment, but what we really need is its commitment, not facilities.
The sea squirt is born with a brain but eats its own brain after finding a rock to settle on because they no longer need it to swim around or move. Unlike other animals,’ the human brain is complex and sophisticated and has the ability to make a difficult decision and imagine. However, regardless of the level of complexity, it needs the help of exercise to remain clear. “If your child finds math difficult, let them go and exercise,” a brain scientist said.