We all shake our heads in agreement that exercise helps kids. During the summer, this often isn't a problem because they're playing sports, attending camps filled with sports and activities, or simply playing outside. The return to school, however, often changes the equation. Due to budget cuts and increased curriculum demands, many schools have cut PE. Only 4% of elementary schools provide daily physical education and 20% have even eliminated recess.
Does this matter?
Exercise provides a number of benefits for kids:
● Health benefits are obvious -- the decline in physical activity is one of the biggest drivers in childhood obesity and related medical issues like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, and scores of orthopedic problems. Doctors recommend a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children.
● Emotional benefits are often overlooked -- regular exercise can dramatically improve children's self-esteem, reducing negative body images and depression.
● Behavior improvements -- physical activity has been shown to reduce excess energy and aggression, leading to fewer fights in classrooms or family rooms.
● Academic benefits -- research continues to illustrate improved cognitive abilities, better immediate retention of material, and improved long-term memory in groups receiving regular physical activity.
● Help kids with ADHD -- recent studies illustrate great results in concentration, behavior, and emotions for kids with ADHD, even suggesting that regular exercise may help reduce medication levels for some.
● Aid Autistic children -- the rates of obesity are generally higher for kids with autism. Physical activity has been shown to improve the fitness levels and general motor skills of moderately autistic children, potentially also reducing the side effects from medication. Exercise can also help decrease negative or self-stimulating behaviors (e.g., body rocking or object tapping).
What can we do?
As parents, we can do many things with our kids to provide regular exercise, which I'll cover in a future piece. To tackle the school angle -- where kids have started spending a significant portion of their days again -- we can support the efforts of our local schools and districts to reinstate PE and recess, implement exercise programs before or after school, and introduce physical activity breaks into the general classroom.
If you're looking for one specific recommendation, please pass along our program to your school or child's teacher! Adventure to Fitness was specifically designed as a low-cost, turnkey solution that kids can use regardless of weather conditions, space, or their physical and athletic abilities. And if you elect to purchase a home subscription, our Rewards Program gives 10% of the proceeds back to your child's school for their purchases. In honor of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Scholastic Readers can use code SCH20 for 20% off an annual subscription!