It is commonly known that physical activity is beneficial for children for many reasons; from improving health and wellness to stimulating the mind and body, physical activity can help promote good habits and a healthy lifestyle. Despite this common knowledge, many children are often required to spend a majority of their school day sitting. While this requirement is believed to be conducive to more attentiveness in students, this sedentary tendency is largely more detrimental. Rather than require children to sit all day, it is encouraged that they are involved in activities that get them moving.
To understand how physical activity is helpful in an educational setting, we must look at how physical movement affects the brain. One of the most prominent effects occurs in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for a number of essential functions such as organization, concentration, and more; individuals with ADHD are often prescribed medications that directly impact this area of the brain. Exercise stimulates the prefrontal cortex, thereby promoting engagement, focus, and retention.
In a similar fashion, physical activity helps balance a child’s sensory abilities. When the body is in harmonious development, neurological functions like concentration, problem solving, and critical thinking are enhanced.
Because physical activity is so important to brain function, incorporating movement into daily lessons should be a priority. Identifying the most effective ways to incorporate physical activities into a classroom can be difficult at first, but the concepts of embodied learning (which entails the use of an individual’s entire body in order to learn something new) as well as movement breaks (which provide opportunities for children to use their bodies in the classroom during a break in their lessons) are essential for health and learning.
Embodied learning is a popular technique used in Montessori schools. Activities as simple as walking around the classroom to participate in separate but related tasks or writing answers to questions on a white board can help increase physical activity in small but significant ways.
Movement breaks are an effective way to limit distractions, encourage attentiveness, and promote wellness. Taking these breaks can improve social dynamics, limit stress, and boost children’s moods. Physical activity in any capacity will be beneficial for young students.
Keeping children active is a challenge. With an increase of digital entertainment and a decrease in allotted time for recess, children are not receiving enough time to get up and move. By incorporating physical activity into the classroom, you can not only encourage physical health in your students, you will also promote optimal brain function and higher learning.