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Give Your Brain an Exercise Snack
By: By Second Grade Teachers, Melissa Kriegshauser and Maggie Martin
Thousands of years ago, humans started out as hunters and gatherers, often moving up to 14 miles per day. The relationship between food, physical activity and learning has always been hardwired into our brains. Over the course of time, the parts of our brain have changed and developed differently to accommodate our lifestyles. One thing that has diminished over time is the amount of physical activity we get. The “screen” era has really taken its toll on exercise.
Focus and motivation are two key components in the success of students at Rossman School. In order to have those two things, our brains need to be working and on all day. One of our goals in second grade is to incorporate movement into our classroom routine. Many of our students even require it in their specific learning plans. One of our favorite ways to do some quick movement during the day is to dance along with GoNoodle videos. We also have sticks with examples of short exercise bursts called brain breaks. In addition, we allow regular bathroom/drink breaks, seat cushions, specific seating for those who prefer to stand, and partner/group activities that allow movement. These quick activities help stimulate the brain and make our students more attentive.
We all know that play is very important for young children. It’s best for them to have some sort of exercise “snack” in the morning to jump start their day. Evidence shows that movement and exercise sharpen the ability to focus. The brain works just as our muscles do - growing with use, withering with inactivity. Inactivity is killing our brains. It’s physically shrinking them. Getting one’s heart and lungs pumping can mean the difference between a calm, focused mind and a harried inattentive self. Exercise has a profound impact on cognitive abilities and mental health.
It is our job as adults and educators to teach our students about the impact that movement and exercise have on our well-being, and not just during P.E. class. We need to stress how we often feel much better after movement and exercise.
Parents often voice that their kids don’t like exercise and that they prefer screen time of some sort, often watching TV or playing video games for long periods of time. In our society, video game addiction is becoming a serious problem, now being compared to being as serious as drug and alcohol addiction, for some. Screen time should be limited and exercise/movement should be encouraged. We should all make exercise and movement a daily habit. Put some effort into it, whether it’s yoga or just walking. Research suggests that vigorous dancing is the best!
Exercise and movement reduce stress and anxiety, they provide distraction, reduce muscle tension, build brain resources, reroute our circuits, improve resilience, and they set you free! So parents, the next time your child sits down to do homework and there is complaining and wiggling going on, suggest jumping rope or doing some sort of physical activity or movement for about five minutes beforehand. Hopefully, your child’s brain will re-engage and be motivated to accomplish the tasks they need to complete.
Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in Creve Coeur, is an independent private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills. Request a free Rossman School brochure here.