My boys need to move. They need to move all the time and preferably outside. I love that they don’t want to be absorbed into the television all day and that they want to be active. I do wonder, though, if they’ll ever get to the point where they prefer less physical activities and need prompting to move and exercise. After reading an article in the August 17th Issaquah Reporter, I’m convinced that I need to help my children find physical activities that they enjoy and will want to continue into adulthood. The article was an interview with author Dr. John Ratey who wrote Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Dr. Ratey said, “What the exercise does is that it makes learners better at learning. It improves the attention system, it improves the motivation to stick with it. It lowers impulsivity. You’re less jumpy in a cognitive situation. It reduces anxiety, and all those things make for a better learner. For the brain, for 100 billion nerve cells, [exercise] optimizes it to grow, and that’s the only way to learn things. That’s the way we encode information. The brain becomes better conditioned. Synapses get pushier, make more neurotransmitters and make more receptors. We get our brain cells ready to learn. If our brain cells don’t grow, we don’t learn.” I do see that Parker and Brandon’s focus and behavior is better after they have played hard. We get them outside to run, play in the sandbox, kick the soccer ball, and climb the playground equipment as weather permits. In poor weather, we find indoor spaces to play. Children’s museums, bouncy house places, and mall play areas have provided many great opportunities for physical play. We’re also starting to include more indoor equipment for our boys. They will be playing on a trampoline, Sit ‘n Spin, and Bilibos this winter.
I also notice an increase in attention, learning and retention in my students after they have had some exercise. Sometimes, just incorporating some kind of physical activity into a lesson is all they need to be able to fully participate. When my students are too lethargic and can’t pay attention or process information, I have them get up and move. Some days we do jumping jacks, other days it’s a walk around the track. Some days just moving from group to group in the classroom is enough. Too many teachers expect students to sit still for long periods of time, listen to the lesson and complete an assignment. If the work is not completed, teachers hold these students out of recess to take the time to finish the assignment. I believe this is the worst thing to do for children. Don’t take recess, PE, or other physical activities away from our children as punishment. They need to run, swing, and play in various ways to optimize their brain’s potential and be able to learn at their optimal level.