For years we have heard about the disadvantages of sitting all day, such as joint and muscle pain, digestive issues, and circulation problems. So much so, that most companies require that each of their employees get at least two breaks during a typical six to eight hour shift. Unfortunately, the same does not go for our children during the school day. The average child sits for between six to eight hours each day while at school. Though the government mandates physical education to be part of the curriculum, it is typically only once a week for 20-30 minutes. As the focus grows on academics and "testing well", movement and physical activity take a back seat, where recess and other movement centered activities are significantly reduced and sometimes cut altogether.
ADHD Increases As Movement Decreases
Over 11% of school aged children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. In the United States, the number is growing at an astonishing rate. Some of the growth can be attributed to changes in qualifications for diagnosis, or increased general awareness of ADHD as a whole. However, there also seems to be a direct correlation between increased ADHD diagnosis with decreased physical activity and movement. As our children are being asked to sit for longer periods of time, their "fidgeting" and lack of ability to pay attention increases, leading to more children getting tested and diagnosed with ADHD. Classrooms, where physical activity and movement are incorporated into the daily routine saw a lower percentage of children being diagnosed with ADHD than those classrooms that did not include physical activity.
What Teachers Can Do
Increasing movement in your classroom is important and very simple to do.
- Start the day off with a short movement game, such as "Simon Says" or a few simple exercises before having your class sit down to start their lessons.
- Incorporate stretch breaks or a movement activity during transition times between lessons or to break up a long lesson. It will help your students to get some of their "wiggles" out, which, in turn, will help them regain their focus on their lessons. Try to include several small (five minutes or so) breaks throughout the day.
- Find ways to teach some lessons in a movement centered way. If you are teaching counting, count stretches or exercises as you do them. During a language arts/reading lesson, have your student act out the story as they are reading as a group. Taking a nature walk outside is a great accompaniment to your science/nature lesson.
- Be an advocate for recess and/or outside play. Try to allow time each day for some "free-time" play on a playground or field, where your students can run and play at a higher intensity than they can in the classroom. If possible, try to have recess mid-day to help break up the academic work, as opposed to at the end of the day.
What Parents Can Do
As a parent, you don't have a lot of say about your child’s school day routine but there are a few ways you can enforce physical activity before and after school.
- Have your child do some stretches and exercises before he gets on the bus or gets dropped off in the morning. It will help him wake up and get the "juices flowing".
- Though it may be tempting to have your child do her homework as soon as she gets home, it will be more beneficial to allow her some physical playtime first.
- If your child has a lot of homework, encourage him to take short breaks and get up and move periodically. It will help with his focus and circulation.
Sources: WashingtonPost.com | WholeChildEducation.org | CarryFitness.com
Movement In The Classroom
Shandy Marso, Contributor
Carolina Pediatric Therapy © September 2014
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