Parents will do almost anything to help their children succeed in school.
They buy flash cards, expensive computer programs, monitor homework, meet with teachers and, if necessary, hire tutors. Could there be another way?
The answer is yes. Researchers are studying the relationship between exercise and students’ grades. Recent studies at the University of Central Florida and by the state of California “suggest that there is a connection between exercise and better grades,” says Ginny Buccelli in Family Life magazine.
Another article by Glade Knight, “Exercise and the Mind,” states that a study by the Society of Neuroscience suggests that “voluntary exercise can increase the number of brain cells in the hippocampus [a brain structure important in learning and memory].”
We already know that too many of our students are seriously overweight. Some experts believe we are creating a generation of young people heading for a life of obesity.
The benefits of exercise for students then are twofold: better health and better grades.
But how do you get your kids out of the house and get them involved in more activities? For starters, as one smart-aleck blogger said, “If your kids are overweight, you’re not getting enough exercise.” In other words, to get your kids out of the house and involved in more exercise, you may need to start with getting yourself out of the house and more involved in exercise.
Deal with your own excuses for not getting out more and you will be in a better position to answer your children’s protests. Putting their protests aside, there are things you can do and they will just have to deal with them.
It is tempting to blame kids’ inactivity these days on computers and television. Television has been around for a long time, and computers have been in schools and homes for over 25 years. The obesity problem is relatively new.
What has changed? None of us, kids included, walk as much as previous generations. For generations, kids have gone from Point A to Point B by walking or riding a bike. They rode the school bus to and from school, just as now, but once away from school and PE classes, their major activity was walking. We need to help our children get back into that habit.
You can begin by setting an example. Create opportunities for yourself and your children to get more exercise by walking. Here are some suggestions.
— When you drive your kids to their ball game, park a block away from the playing field and let them (and you) walk the rest of the way. They may object, but you’re the driver. You decide where to park.
— When you drive your kids to the mall, park away from all the buildings at the back of the lot. There is always plenty of good parking there; your car won’t be dinged by another driver opening his door; they will get to add another hundred yards to their walk.
— When entering a multistory building, look for the stairs instead of the elevator.
Unless your kids are in a wheelchair, on crutches or have some other health reason that justifies taking the elevator, taking the stairs will give them some additional exercise and give their heart muscle an extra workout.
— Not all city streets are safe for children. There may be heavy traffic or the streets may lack sidewalks. Alas, some neighborhoods may not be safe for young children.
In either case, use parental caution and find other places for your children to get more exercise on their bikes, rollerblades, scooters or by walking.
I’ve been talking mostly about walking. But exercise can take many different forms.
Your children may respond to playing basketball in the driveway. A pair of rollerblades may be all it takes to get them out of the house.
You need not invest in expensive home exercise equipment. Just find some activities that excite your children and get started doing them on a regular basis.
Exercise can improve your children’s grades. It can also improve their health and increase their lives. Aren’t those three good reasons for seeing that your children get more exercise now?
The habits you establish with them will stay with them for life and you can help make sure that life is long, healthy and prosperous.
Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]