You'd never imagine that moving about in class has such benefits to your child!
I sometimes wonder how teachers manage whole classrooms of children. Of course there’s the noise. But there’s also the constant movement (wriggling, fidgeting) that young children often display.
Given this, it’s not surprising that if you walk into any classroom around the world, you’re bound to hear the request, “Please sit still!”
However, surprising new research shows that activity during class-time could actually benefit your child’s learning.
Movement for learning
There is now evidence that when kids take short ‘activity breaks’ during their school day, their attentiveness and learning in class improve.
Brian Gatens, the superintendent of schools in Emerson, New Jersey, reminds us, “We need to recognize that children are movement-based. In schools, we sometimes are pushing against human nature in asking them to sit still and be quiet all the time.”
This recognition is supported by recent research (January 2017) by Lund University in Sweden that shows that students (especially boys) who engaged in physical activity on a daily basis, fared better in school.
Jesper Fritz, a doctoral student at Lund University and physician at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, who was the study’s lead author, says “daily physical activity is an opportunity for the average school to become a high-performing school,”
Another report from the Institute of Medicine (2013) also pointed out that active kids “show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.”
Brain development and physical activity
There is plenty of research that highlights the link between brain development and physical activity. According to Psychology Today, the benefits of exercise include:
- Increased blood flow, improving cerebrovascular health
- The release of neurotrophic factors like BDNF, which stimulates the growth of new neurons
- Glucose and lipid metabolism which bring nourishment to the brain.
So when it comes to kids being active at school, these benefits certainly come into play.
James F. Sallis, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, who has done research on the association between activity breaks and classroom behavior, explains:
“Activity helps the brain in so many ways. Activity stimulates more blood vessels in the brain to support more brain cells. And there is evidence that active kids do better on standardized tests and pay attention more in school.”
Another reason to encourage movement breaks in schools, say experts, is because other than ‘waking up the brain’, these breaks are really fun and motivate kids to look forward to coming to school.
Academics VS. physical exercise
Not all educators agree that the school day should be ‘interrupted’ by movement breaks, with some arguing that they could be disruptive to academics and the learning process.
But Steve Boyle, one of the co-founders of the National Association of Physical Literacy in the USA, argues that neither kids or adults are wired to sit still for a long amount of time and absorb information.
Mr. Boyle’s association has introduced a series of three- to five-minute videos called “BrainErgizers” that are being used in schools and Boys and Girls Clubs in 15 U.S. states and in Canada, Mexico, Ireland and Australia.
The programme allows for teachers to give their students a few minutes three to five times a day to watch a video and follow the cues given by the instructors.
Using this method, kids are able to get at least an hour of movement during their week in addition to other physical activity they might do, and of course, along with this comes the ‘brain boost’ that physical activity brings.
Would you be okay for ‘movement breaks’ to be introduced to your child’s school day? Tell us what you think in a comment below.