Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

June 5, 2013

U.S. School Kids Should Get Hour of Exercise Daily

Child And Family Development Charlotte NC

An recent article on Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, examine the value of regular physical activity for children. This article highlights objective research that shows without a doubt that there are big benefits to this heavy work activity that we recommend for our kids. The benefits are not just for the kids with sensory or self-regulation challenges, but for all kids. 

Click the following link to read the full article:

Here is an excerpt: ‚ÄúSince the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, 44 percent of school officials have cut back on physical education to devote more time to reading and mathematics in the classroom,” according to the report.

However, research suggests that regular physical activity may actually improve academic performance, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) noted. For instance, aerobic fitness is linked to working memory and problem solving. Recess offers children the opportunity to develop social skills and use their imaginations. Benefits of physical activity during the school day are greater than the benefits of exclusive use of classroom time for academics, the authors concluded.”

This is especially relevant to OT because we frequently treat children who have difficulty with self-regulation. These are kids who are getting all of the sensory inputs that the world has to offer but they can‚Äôt seem to handle it all and so their systems get disorganized. This results in all kinds of challenges for them to function successfully in their daily settings. We frequently recommend what we call ‚Äúheavy work‚Äù activities to help with this outside of what we do in the clinic environment. 

Heavy work is essentially physical activity that grown-ups would call exercise. It‚Äôs generally anything that makes your heart beat faster, makes you sweat, and makes you breathe heavier. 

In my work as an Occupational Therapist at Child and Family Development, I hear often from children that they ‚Äúdidn‚Äôt have to do anything‚Äù in gym class or they didn‚Äôt have to participate. Even if your child has a regular hour of gym class every day, which is not so common anymore it seems, it is still important to help them move around outside of school. 

Tips for getting more exercise in

  • Try to go for a walk after dinner or right when you get home. It doesn‚Äôt have to feel like work to count as exercise, any movement is good movement. That exercise will actually help them sit better for homework time. It may be beneficial to delay homework time for 30 minutes to go for a walk. I know it‚Äôs hard to work full time, take care of everything else in your child‚Äôs schedule and still even find time to feed yourself something decent let alone to add something to that schedule. 
  • Start small, start by just going outside in the yard to play catch or basketball for 5 or 10 minutes at a quiet point in the day. Work your way up from there. 

The research shows exercise is not just good for your children‚Äôs physical health but perhaps even more importantly it‚Äôs beneficial for their emotional and mental health as well.