13 Oct Could Exercise Be Better Than Studying?
Could workouts after-school be more effective than studying? Heading home and hitting the books isn’t always the best idea according to new research. Contrary to what many parents, teachers, and even some teens believe, working out is more important after-school than homework time. An article published by Pediatrics (http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/exercise-boosts-kids-attention-thinking-skills-study-shows-692130.html) shows that students who engaged in exercise after-school had better self-control and focused improvements for homework later in the evening.
We know that students often need breaks throughout the day to get in their body, reset, and get out that excess energy. This need doesn’t stop in elementary school, but recess often does. Students at any age can befit from afterschool exercise. Those in this study who participated in an after-school program with plenty of physical activity showed greater improvements in several areas of executive functioning. This refers to a range of mental or “cognitive” skills that include memory, focus, attention and the ability to switch back and forth between tasks. The benefits from after-school exercise extended beyond homework time and improved overall cognitive development. Executive control, the collection of mental skills that got a boost from the exercise, is critical for positive brain development.
“Executive control is also associated with fewer conduct problems, which can interfere with classroom instruction, less drug use, which interferes with learning, and less risky sexual behavior, which can result in school drop-out due to unintended pregnancies,” said researchers. “The policy implication is that schools will want to consider providing increased opportunities for physical activity to their students not only to promote better health, but also to potentially increase academic achievement.” The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institutes of Health.
After-School Exercise Ideas
So how do you get your kid to hit the pavement instead of zoning out in front of the TV or getting started on homework? Try to integrate a few days of afterschool activities and see what you notice after a few weeks.
Connect With a Team or Gym
After school sports abound in the fall and spring, so if possible, get your children involved in one of the sports they enjoy most per season. Involving your kids in after school activities builds their self-confidence, fosters leadership skills and gives them the ability to work as a team player. Many gyms have kids/teens programs so you get can your workout in and they can too. Swimming, hula hooping, Zumba, indoor relay races, spinning classes and more may be offered.
Head to Your Neighborhood
Sometimes kids really aren’t into organized team sports, which is no problem. When school is over, take the time to throw a ball, organize mini races in the backyard or up and down the street or set up a simple obstacle course in your yard and see how fast each of your children can get through it. Most kids thrive on a little competition, and if it gets them moving, even better. Ride bikes home from school or have a family bike ride before getting started on dinner. It will improve everyone’s mood.
Move with a Friend
Exercise is almost more fun with a friend. After school can be a great time to do something simple like take a walk or ride a bike, it’s free and doesn’t require any membership fees. Roller blades or playing at the park are fun ways to add socialization and some major movement. Schedule a walking date with other families in the neighborhood; kids can even ride along on their bikes. Commit to once a week for half an hour to start, and see how often and how long you can work up to.
Take Up Martial Arts
If your little one is more interested in solo activities that don’t necessarily involve teams, he or she may take a liking to martial arts. Karate, judo and tae kwon do are great for kids of varying ages and abilities, and cultivate self-discipline, mindfulness, self-confidence and a sense of respect for themselves and others.
Yoga isn’t just for adults. It can be very beneficial for kids, as well. It has been shown to improve stress, breathing, flexibility and discipline. Look in your area for after school yoga classes aimed at kids. Lots of schools offer them and there are also tons of YouTube and Hulu videos that you can turn on for free.
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. It’s becoming more and more evident that the we cannot have one without the other. Starting these kinds of positive habits early will prepare your child for a long, healthy life.
-Emily Roberts, MA, LPC Associate, Hartstein Psychological Services