Enhancing Working Memory Through Movement

Three children dancing with their instructor

Movement-based activities like dancing, yoga, and sports are not only great for physical health but also have a significant impact on cognitive functions like working memory. For teachers and parents looking to support the development of working memory in children, incorporating these activities into daily routines can be highly beneficial.


Dancing is a dynamic activity that engages multiple brain functions, including working memory. Learning and performing dance routines require individuals to remember sequences of steps, timing, and spatial awareness, all of which challenge and improve working memory.

When dancers practice a routine, they are essentially exercising their working memory as they commit the sequence to memory. This process involves encoding the steps, retaining them in memory, and recalling them in the correct order while dancing. As dancers progress, they may also need to adapt to changes in the routine, further challenging their working memory.

Incorporating dance into children’s routines can be a fun and effective way to enhance their working memory while promoting physical activity and social interaction.


Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation, all of which can benefit working memory. The focus and concentration required during yoga practice can help improve attention span and cognitive control, both of which are important for working memory. The mindful aspect of yoga also promotes relaxation and reduces stress levels, positively impacting working memory.


Participating in sports requires quick decision-making, strategic thinking, and the ability to anticipate and react to movements. These activities bolster working memory by requiring children to remember game rules, strategies, and positions of teammates and opponents. Sports also promote physical fitness, which is linked to improved cognitive function, including working memory.

Combining Activities

Combining movement activities can further enhance their impact on working memory. For example, incorporating yoga poses or breathing exercises into a dance routine can help children improve their focus and concentration, which are essential for working memory.

Activities like dancing, yoga, and sports offer a fun and engaging way to improve working memory in children. By incorporating movement-based activities into children’s daily routines, teachers and parents can support the development of this essential cognitive skill, leading to improved academic performance and overall cognitive function.

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About the Author

Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

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