Growing the Hippocampus Away from Campus

Many students are involved in activities outside of school that have long-term health and cognitive benefits


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Exercise and video games can actually have positive effects on teens’ brains.

While The Benjamin Middle School offers a wide variety of sports (19 to be exact) and activities (clubs, Student Council, etc.), there are many students who are involved in activities outside of school that don’t often get recognized for their participation or accomplishments.

“I participate in all-star cheerleading competitively,” said seventh grader Zoe Cooper. “I do cheerleading three days a week for about two hours and fifteen minutes, and on Saturdays, I do it for three hours.”  

Seventh grader Xan Blount takes gymnastics outside of school, a sport that requires a great deal of flexibility, strength, and stamina. “I am a competitive gymnast [at TNT in Wellington],” said Blount. “[I participate in gymnastics] four times a week up to four hours,” she said. “I participate in sports because I think it’s good for you, and when I’m bored at home it gives me something to do. I think it trains you a different way. It’s something that you choose to do, so it teaches you more skills.”

Other students enjoy participating in martial arts as its benefits are more than just physical. “I am a third degree black belt in taekwondo,” said sixth grader Anthony Viverito. “I think it’s a very good thing to do. It teaches you discipline and responsibility. In Singapore, I did it four days a week, now I only do it three days a week. It does not only affect your social life, but your school life in a positive way.”

While some do sports competitively, others participate in sports just for fun and to get their minds off of school work.  

“I play golf and volleyball,” said seventh grader Taylor Grande. “I play volleyball four days a week for one hour and 45 minutes, and golf three days a week for an hour. Out of golf and volleyball, my favorite sport is golf,“ she said.

Many students participate in recreational sports outside of school, meaning they are not competitive and are meant to improve the skills of those who participate.

“I used to participate in tackle football, but not enough people were on our rosters, so we could not form a team,” said seventh grader Luca Balzano. “Now I play recreational soccer one day a week [and] for one hour. I participate in after school sports to get more time outside, [and] not on electronics.”

Most students play sports to be able to do something they love while still being social. “I participate in after school sports because it’s a fun way to play and improve my skills while also seeing friends,” said seventh grader Wilson Stewart. “In the late spring and fall I play travel lacrosse. I play for an hour-and-a-half two days a week. My favorite sport is basketball, but I really like all the sports I play,” he said.

Many Benjamin students like to play sports, which not only benefits their bodies and overall health, but studies show exercise also helps the brain function better.  According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, “In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”

Sports aren’t the only after-school activity that are good for the brain, though. According to an article recently published on, “Some studies found that gamers show improvements in several types of attention, such as sustained attention or selective attention. The brain regions involved in attention are also more efficient in gamers and require less activation to sustain attention on demanding tasks. There is also evidence that video games can increase the size and efficiency of brain regions related to visuospatial skills. For example, the right hippocampus was enlarged in both long-term gamers and volunteers following a video game training program.”

Of course, many students enjoy gaming when they’re away from school,  “I play thirty minutes of Fortnite a day,” said seventh grader seventh grader George Straub. Gaming is one of the biggest after-school activities. It is also a great way to connect with your friends through consoles such as Xbox and PS4.

After-school activities are a great way for students to have fun, connect with friends, and, according to researchers, boost their brain power.