If you are choosing to homeschool your kids or continue with Distance Education during the pandemic, your kids may be tied to their desks more than they are used to this new school year. Your kids may become more stagnant unless you make sure they get the physical breaks they need to stay balanced and healthy throughout the day.
Reasons movement is better
According to John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, movement activates the brain cells that children need to learn. Moving around stimulates more blood vessels in the brain to support the creation of new brain cells. Low-level movement, like standing, improves students’ attention and alertness because their blood circulation and oxygenation levels increase.
Movement breaks also help address childhood obesity and many other health concerns about children not getting enough physical activity, since playtime has been dramatically reduced for reasons like increased technology use. Extensive medical evidence shows that regular physical activity is related to lower body fat, greater muscular strength, stronger bones, and improvements in cardiovascular and metabolic health. Regular physical activity also helps reduce anxiety and depression.
How to encourage more movement
You can help your children break up all that time sitting by providing fun movement breaks, standing desks, yoga ball seats, and plenty of outdoor time.
I don’t know about you, but my kids won’t stop talking about GoNoodle (gonoodle.com), a creative online program that gives kids active breaks throughout the school day. Encourage your kids to use this site from home. The idea is that kids need time between lessons to move around and give their mind a rest. Plus, if these breaks are done a few times a day, that can add up to an extra hour of physical movement per week!
The unique aspect about these types of programs is they are not intended to be focused solely on exercise. They are aimed to entertain students while at the same time getting them up and moving. GoNoodle videos have kids running alongside their desks through a virtual obstacle course or following along with dance moves. The kids are laughing and having a blast without realizing they are getting exercise. According to the chief executive and a co-founder of GoNoodle, by investing three to five minutes for kids to move, they can learn more effectively for the next 45 minutes.
Another way to encourage movement is to use a standing desk. These are raised desks that can be adjusted to each child’s height and comfort needs. They have been proven to be beneficial to children from both health and learning perspectives. A report in Pediatrics reviewed eight studies showing how standing desks decreased sitting time by about an hour each day. Some of the studies also found that this increased physical activity and improved students’ behavior.
Next, a study in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education found that students who used standing desks were more engaged than those who sat during class. In fact, there was a 12 percent rise in engagement by students using standing desks, which adds up to an extra seven minutes per hour of effective instruction time.
Finally, a study by Loughborough University in Great Britain found that overall classroom sitting time dropped by about 52 minutes per day from using standing desks, and teachers noticed how their students’ concentration, attention to tasks, and general behavior significantly improved. Standing up is the new sitting down.
Yoga balls have also become popular. They stabilize the core, promote better posture, and allow students to move and bounce around a bit at their work station when they feel antsy. Kids can get a mini workout just by sitting on the yoga ball while they do their school work. According to an article in California Educator, teachers have noticed that yoga balls decrease unwanted movement, while students’ attention spans have risen. The children are thrilled with their yoga chairs because they have more freedom to move around.
Other ways you can introduce important movement breaks into your children’s school day include:
Sandi is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. Find her at happysciencemom.com. Get her free course on raising happy, balanced kids at bit.ly/2i53TDV.
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