Importance of Movement in Kids

In 1999 a teacher named Phil Lawler in Naperville, Illinois read an article that stated the health of US children was declining due to inactivity. Looking inside the school gym he saw a lot of kids that were in fact inactive. He decided to shift the focus of the ph

ysical Education class to cardiovascular fitness. Once a week students had to run a mile. Assessments were based on effort and reaching personal bests rather than skill. Non-athletes were allowed to train on bikes. He also brought in heart rate monitors to ensure the students were pushing themselves. “Your goal is to run your fastest mile…your average heart rate should be above 185.”

While this improved their performance within the school (lessons were re-shuffled to ensure those that required the most concentration were at the beginning of the day), since 1999 it has also made a huge impact on their results internationally. Academically this school performs way above any others in the area. In 1999 the 8th graders scored 1st in the world in science and 6th in the world in Maths. US schools as a whole ranked 18th in science and 19th in maths, with some areas scoring last in the world.

 

How does exercise improve learning and brain function?

Exercise encourages our brain to work at its optimum level, it causes nerve cells to multiply, connections between nerves are strengthened and they are also protected from damage. We get more oxygen and blood flow to the brain and a release of endorphins which are happy hormones that reduce stress and improve our mood.

In children, exercise has been shown to reduce restlessness and hyperactivity, decrease symptoms of ADHD, improve moods and immunity, and it also improves sleep which further enhances all the other benefits listed. It has also been shown to increase energy levels. Imagine if your child began the day with more energy, a better mood and was more settled. Imagine how much better their ability to learning would be.

Movement particularly from birth to 3.5 years is essential for laying down appropriate pathways for learning and development. It is how the brain learns to relate to the world around it. Movement develops optimal posture, eye movement and control through balance and co-ordination, better reading and better fine motor control which is crucial for handwriting.

 

How to get kids moving

  • Walking or riding a bike to school. Even if you live too far away to walk/ride the whole way, park a little distance from school and walk/ride the remainder
  • If there is time to watch TV in the morning, there is time to send the kids outside in the backyard. Bike riding, jumping on the trampoline, running around, kicking the footy, whatever it may be
  • Get to school early and play on the playground before going into class
  • Give them goals
    • “See how long it will take you to run around the backyard” and time them while you’re getting yourself ready. Then do it a second time and see if they can beat their time
    • “Go outside and see if you can get 10 goals” or “See how many goals you can get in a row” (Basketball, soccer, football)
  • Organise friends to walk/ride with before or to school
  • Ask them what activities they like and incorporate these into the daily or weekly routine
  • Get the family up 20 minutes earlier to ensure there is a little more time before school

While exercise in the morning is the best time for learning, any time is better than not at all. Even after school limiting screen time is so important for many reasons besides getting the body moving more.

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Why Morning Routines are good for you! And what to do that will set you up for an awesome day!

Sunrise Nambucca Heads

A few years ago I was volunteering on the East Coast of Australia and woke before the sun to go for a run and get this picture

As of January this year, I have been living in one place. This is a big thing because for over two years I was travelling a lot and although it didn’t bother me, there was a lot of lost time in travelling, but also packing/unpacking etc. So late nights to bed, early mornings, lost time, excuses for why I wasn’t getting stuff done, lack of routine because every week was different! So when I settled myself in one place I was determined to get into a routine.

The first morning I started this, I thought to myself, “I will wake up with the sun”. So we opened the blinds the night before so the sun could shine in when morning came. I seriously woke up, wide awake, at 5:15am. First light! No alarm. Just woke up. Thankfully that only happened once because 5:15am was too early. But getting up with the sun is important, more about that later.

I am still leaving the blinds open but I now only wake up between 6:30 and 7pm. A much nicer time. I would be happier if it was earlier, but that’s when my body has decided its ok, so that’s ok with me. I then get up, have a big drink of water (always beside my bed), use the bathroom, take my bush essences remedy, and then head into my study/meditation/yoga/piano room.

We’ve positioned our house so our bedroom, the study and the dining room/kitchen all face into the morning sun. So in the study the yoga mat is always rolled out and this is where I head to do my sun salutations, a few extra yoga poses if I decide, a headstand or two if I please, then the 5 Tibetan rites, which I promise to do a blog post on soon and link it here. I then sit down for some meditation. The time varies. 5 minutes is enough. 10 minutes is good. An hour is better. The busier your day, the more you should do. Seems counterproductive but there are SO many benefits to mediation it’s unbelievable.

Now it’s breakfast time! And then my day continues…

That’s my routine so far.

So now onto why it’s important to have a routine and what are some ways to make your morning amazing:

You get more done

Getting up a regular time, which normally invoves getting up earlier means that you get more done over the day. Going for a run or a walk first thing in the morning, means your exercise is done. That’s it for the day. And what an invigorating way to start the day.

Giving yourself even an extra 15 minutes means that either you’re not rushing and running out the door, or you can add in extra things like a bit of mediation, 15 minutes of reading a book with breakfast, watering the plants outside, enjoying your coffee without slurping it down. Basically stopping in the morning to smell the roses. You can even fold the washing if you want. That’s one less thing you don’t need to do when you get home at night. Put dinner in the slow cooker. The list is endless. Whatever you feel you don’t have time for at night.

Getting up with the sun

Before alarms, deadlines, late nights of TV, people use to get up with the sun. Stop when the sun goes down, start when it comes up. This is what our body clock is designed to do. And this is the way our body works best. Have you noticed that when you wake up naturally, you wake up fresher and happier? That not necessarily the extra sleep you may have had, but that your body woke when it was ready. Getting your body in tune with natural rhythms of the environment around (eg. The sun) is so beneficial for not just your energy levels, but your mood, wellbeing and so much more.

Most weather apps or website can give you sunrise and sunset times. Sunrise generally happens (in SA anyway) between 6am in summer and 7:30am in the winter.

Make your bed

Everyone loves getting into fresh sheets. Only part of the reason is they’re clean, the other part is made beds feel fresher, even without the sheets. Making your bed in the morning means that it feels fresher at night time. Almost like you’re in a hotel, because if you make your bed in the morning, so much has happened between times it’s like someone else did it for you. Maybe?

It’s good feng shui practice anyway. An unmade bed makes the room look cluttered and untidy and that’s not good for a restful nights sleep. Its also seen as closure. As upsetting as it is sometimes to have to get out of bed (hopefully using these tips rectifies that!) the making of your bed signifies sleeping time is over and it’s time to face the world and get on with your day.

A study found that making your bed improved your sleep by 19%*

*National Sleep Foundation, Sleep Poll, Jan. 25, 2011

Exercise and getting outside

Even if it’s just a walk around the block or going outside to water the plants. If you’re following the ‘get up with the sun’ protocol, this is the BEST time to be outside. It’s fresh, it’s cool, it’s quiet and it’s peaceful. Walking around the block, going for a run, or even just getting outside to say good morning to the sun, the fresh air will wake you up and get you going.

Meditation

Anecdotal evidence, as noticed be me, says that meditation in the morning improves concentration and energy. And I’m sure somewhere I could find a study to prove that. Taking even 5 minutes so focus on your breath and clear your head can make such a difference in the day.

When I lived in Adelaide I got up at 5:45am three mornings a week to do yoga. At the end we would lie down and do as much or as little meditation as we wanted. As the teacher always reminded us, this might be the last time you get to lay down today. That always motivated me to stay an extra 5 minutes. So, go! Sit down on a chair or cross your legs, or lay on the floor, focus on your breath for 5 minutes, it may be the last break you get all day!

Drink some water

The standard recommendation is 2 litres per day. I generally suggest 1 litre per 30kg of body weight, because a 100kg man needs more hydration than a 60kg woman. Starting the day with one glass (or two!) means you are one glass closer to your target. My drink bottle is 550mL. I carry that around while I go through my morning routine so by breakfast I’ve generally had ½ L already.

It is best to space your water through the day. Don’t drink your two litres in the morning and think you’re done for the day. Plus you’d have no room for breakfast. And spend the next three hours at the toilet.

Before breakfast another glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon is also amazing for your health. Just a quick google search of “warm lemon water in the morning” will give you dozens of reasons why this is a good idea, from clearer skin to liver cleansing. It’s also good for delaying your coffee (See blog post here) because many of us, particularly in winter crave warm drinks, mostly reaching for the coffee or a black tea. Drinking warm water and lemon satisfies that ‘warm drink’ craving and gives us an extra cup towards our water quota. As opposed to coffee that negates two cups of water due to the diuretic factor.

Other possible routine ideas:

Practice gratitude – before bed or in the morning, write down three things you’re thankful for.

Oil pulling – first thing, put one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish for 20 minutes. You may need to work up to this amount of time. The oil ‘pulls’ all sorts of bacteria and yuckies (technical term) from between your teeth, giving you fresh breath, clean teeth and better health as the state of your mouth, gums and teeth is very closely linked with your overall health

Eat breakfast – as the saying goes, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” People who eat breakfast consume fewer calories over the day. Make sure it’s something with a bit of protein and fat, not just the carb-filled toast or cereal options we’ve been lead to believe are good for us!

Don’t reach for your phone – lying in bed on Facebook in the mornings is dangerous. Firstly it’s a time waster. Secondly social media has been found to be detrimental to our self-esteem. Thirdly, have you ever dropped your phone on your face while in bed? I have. More than once. It hurts. Don’t play with your mobile phone in bed. It’s dangerous. For your face and your time. Get up and get moving.

Look in the mirror – say good morning to yourself. Say I love you. Be thankful for the able body you have. Do this every day and your life will change.

What morning routines do you have? What works best for getting you up and moving in the morning? Have you tried any of these techniques?

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