When people think of “exercise” they most often think of jogging, walking, weight lifting, swimming, and so on. These are all great examples of physical exercise but are mostly applicable to adults. Kids in grade school shouldn’t really be jogging or lifting weights yet. So what is exercising as it pertains to kids?
Kids exercise when they play at the playground, participate in sports in gym class (either in school or extracurricular), ride bikes, swim, play tag, and so on. Pretty much any activity that gets them up and moving around is how children exercise. In addition, we can also observe some benefits of physical activity on learning.
Regular physical activity boosts cardiorespiratory fitness, builds strong bones and muscles, maintains a healthy weight, reduces anxiety and the risk of developing heart disease.
Read on to learn how playing sports benefits your body and your brain, especially your kids’.
Common Benefits of Physical Activity in Children
Why is physical activity important for kids, you ask? Research has shown that maintaining a moderate but regular physical activity, such as kids’ obstacle course fitness classes, can have a positive influence on children, both physically and mentally. Here are some of the benefits of physical activity for kids.
Stronger Muscles and Bones
One of the benefits of children exercising is that kids who exercise in at least a moderate fashion for between 30 - 60 minutes a day will develop stronger muscles and denser bones. They are less likely to get hurt (broken bones, for example) and will feel more confident being active, whether it is playing with friends or being part of a sports team.
Lower Blood Pressure and Risk of Diabetes
Another reason behind the importance of physical activity for children is that kids who exercise regularly will typically have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than sedentary children. Therefore, they will be at lower risk for childhood diabetes and heart disease.
Better Weight Management
Children who stay decently active will be less prone to obesity and generally have leaner bodies than non-active children. Excess weight in children has been linked to various cardiovascular diseases including low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, inflammation, and an increased risk for certain types of cancer.
A kid that is exhausted from fun exercise is calmer after. This is due to the “mental reset” that comes after physical exertion. This is great for children and serves as a stress-relieving event for them. Believe it or not, kids feel stress, more than you would think they do. Having an activity that can let the steam out is super important for their mental health.
Finally, an active kid will have higher self-esteem and more self-confidence than a less active kid. This is reinforced for the child when they are participating in an activity that has other children in it. “Social growth is the byproduct of watering your self-esteem”. In other words, kids will grow socially with each other when they are exposed to challenging and positive activities and accomplish them together. The accomplishment of the activity adds to their internal resume, which helps them define themselves.
How Does Physical Activity Affect Your Child’s Academic Performance
If your children are involved in team sports, playing outside, or partaking in extracurricular sporting activities, they’ll reap the benefits of physical activity on academic performance.
Improved Concentration and Attention
Physical exercise and team sports improve alertness, attention, and motivation. So, how does exercise help the brain? Intense physical activity causes blood to flow to the brain. This fires up neurons and promotes cell growth in the hippocampus, which is a brain structure in the temporal lobe responsible for learning and memory.
Rigorous teamwork exercises are great activities to improve academic performance, as they require decision-making capabilities, firing up the brain and body at the same time. All the additional blood that flows to the brain during exercise bathes brain cells in oxygen and glucose, which they need to function. The more the brain receives, the better it performs. Undoubtedly, sports and brain development are necessary for a healthy progression into adulthood.
Higher Levels of Chemicals that Affect Mood
The effect of physical activity on academic performance is profound because it affects mood and motivation, which are necessary for both physical activity and academic performance. When children exercise, their bodies produce endorphins. These hormones reduce pain and boost pleasure, increasing well-being. Research indicates that when people are happier, their relaxed minds concentrate and retain information better, as they’re not anxiously caught up in negative fight or flight mode.
Spending time away from screens, whether watching TV or on social media, is also vital to strengthen socialization skills and build psychological fortitude, particularly if children participate in group activities. According to the Healthy Sport Index, school athletes are less likely to suffer from loneliness and low self-esteem compared to children who don’t play any sport.
Improved Blood Flow
One of the academic benefits of physical activity lies in the increased blood flow. Everybody requires proper circulation to maintain optimal health, yet children (and adults!) still spend many hours behind their desks at school or work. Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain healthy blood and oxygen flow throughout the body, allowing the lungs, heart, and muscles to function properly.
Good circulation transports white blood cells around the body, bolstering the immune system’s power to stave off disease and illness. It also improves skin and helps dispense nutrients throughout the body. When adequate blood flows to the brain, it prevents cognitive decline and memory loss by strengthening the hippocampus.
Enhanced Learning Skills
School sports and academic performance go hand in hand. Associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. John J. Ratey, underlines the academic benefits of sports as exercise remodels the brain for peak performance. It optimizes children’s minds, improving alertness, attention, and motivation while encouraging new nerve cells to bind to one another, which is important for logging new information.
Physical exercise also encourages the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the brain, making learning easier. Frequent, vigorous exercise balances neurotransmitters and neurochemicals, leading to an improved balance between body and mind that ultimately creates optimal learning conditions.
Better Reading and Spelling
Some studies have also shown the academic benefits of exercise when it comes to reading and spelling skills. The physical activity reinforces a child’s spatial awareness, fine motor skills, and visual perception, all of which come into play when reading and writing. In addition, a more sedentary lifestyle has been shown to be related to poorer reading skills, particularly for boys.
Improve Math Skills
It is not only reading skills that can improve with some added physical activities. Studies have shown that children who exercise their motor skills – particularly gross motor skills – can improve their mathematical performance. Therefore, practicing sports regularly can have a positive impact on math skills.
Better Classroom Behavior
It is a well-known fact that physical activity throughout the day can contribute to better behavior in the classroom and a better learning experience for all students since disturbances are less likely. Therefore, recess and shorter, more intense movement breaks during the lessons are essential to any learning environment. Teachers can also implement physically active lessons to improve information retention.
So, How Much Physical Exercise Should Your Child Get?
According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, children should get one hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous intense physical activity a day for optimal sports and brain development. This includes a mix of aerobic, muscle, and bone-strengthening activities. While this may sound like a lot, most children who play school sports most likely already achieve this recommended dose of exercise.
School sports also don’t have to be the only way your child exercises. At Hot Ground Gym, we know how important sports and school performance are for a child’s future progress and growth. Our extracurricular programs include exciting team-building activities, as well as obstacle course training. Kids love participating because it feels like fun and games as opposed to regular exercise.
We offer children a safe environment to learn and interact with one another while developing core skills like collaboration, discipline, confidence, and creativity. Each 45-minute class includes activities like role-playing rescue missions to facilitate teamwork, as well as adventure activity ropes that strengthen physical fitness through tying, repelling, hoisting, climbing and dragging.
Exercise Your Child’s Brain with Hot Ground Gym
If you’re having trouble motivating your kid to exercise, or they want to explore something new, why not try out our specially designed programs at Hot Ground Gym? Our outdoor obstacle courses and team-building challenges are designed to engage kids physically and mentally to stimulate their character and intellect because we know how physical activity affects academic performance. Call us at 847-613-1834 or contact us online and enroll your kid in our revolutionary classes.