Physical activity is a vital component in a child’s healthy development. We know that regular exercise fosters a child’s physical, mental and emotional well being. Understanding how physical activity affects the mind is an important factor when we consider the rising number of kids identified with learning and behaviour problems. Physical inactivity not only jeopardizes physical wellness, it also impedes cognitive function and academic success.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6-17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.(Cdc.gov, 2015)
Sadly these recommendations are not being met. The CDC reports that in 2013, less than 30% of high school students were able to incorporate 60 minutes a day of physical activity. The findings suggest that participation in physical activity declines as young people age. (Cdc.gov, 2015)
Physical activity is instrumental in the development of cognitive, emotional and social skills in young children. The absence of consistent physical activity in a child’s early years allows for poorly developed motor skills. Underdeveloped fine and gross motor skills are common traits found in kids with learning and behavioral challenges. Establishing healthy practices at an early age will reduce the likelihood of a misdiagnosis.
Physical activities such as recreational sports can provide children with learning and behavioural difficulties an opportunity to excel. Exercise reduces stress, and allows for better focus in the classroom. Children who struggle with learning in the classroom often find themselves enjoying and succeeding at recreational sports which in turn bolsters their self-esteem.
Establishing healthy habits early in life allows for these practices to carry forward into later life. It is essential for the overall well being of our kids that physical activity be incorporated into their day to day be it indoors or outdoors. Seasonally, this can be a challenge when temperatures drop or rise beyond our normal comfort levels. However it is crucial that we find ways to adapt and be consistent. Accessing fitness when the temperatures are not optimal is easy if you take some time to research your options.
Local recreation facilities in your community are a good place to start. Indoor swimming pools allow for lessons, recreational swims and aquatic aerobics. Consider a family membership and make it a weekly visit. Swimming, with all of its coordination of movement and breathing activates the brain and body in ways that other sports do not and is a fantastic way to help with brain development. For kids and grownups this is an activity that can be enjoyed together and is accessible year round. Exploring the various facilities and trying out new sports is a great way to get out of the house and get moving. Think of this as an opportunity to try something new and use the weather outside as a catalyst for a new physical activity.
Circuit Training at home is a creative option. Setting up stations with activities around the house is another fun way to encourage the family to get up and move. Each station is allocated an exercise; sit ups, push-ups, with the objective of breaking a sweat. Using music is a great way to motivate and make things fun. Incorporating dance into any workout will make the activity all that more enjoyable for the kids. If you’re a family who loves their video games why not try some of the interactive movement games? Games that engage the body and burn calories are a great way to entice the kids. The key is to get them moving so be creative in your approach.
Finally, getting outdoors when the weather is not ideal should not be overlooked. Dressing appropriately and comfortably can make a world of difference when venturing out. Reach out to neighbors and set up a walking committee of families in the neighborhood. Coordinate daily walks/runs with refreshments at the finish line can make for a great workout as well as a social community building opportunity.
Finding ways to get the body moving and engaging both your gross and fine motor skills is key to a healthy balanced lifestyle. Getting out and exploring your community will allow for new opportunities for growth and learning. Never underestimate the value of movement in all its forms. Don’t give the weather the driver’s seat. Get creative and get moving!
Cdc.gov, (2015). CDC | Physical Activity | Facts | Healthy Schools. [online] Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm [Accessed 18 Nov. 2015].