Why movement and exercise is important for children's learning and development
As you may already know I am a Masters qualified Developmental Educator, and Post-Graduate qualified Exercise Physiologist.
To write this article I have put my 'Exercise Physiology hat on' as I want to share with you my expertise about how movement and exercise have a positive impact on a child's learning and development.
Before going too far in to this blog article, I want you to understand what I mean by the term 'exercise'.
Exercise doesn't just include the activities of running, swimming, cycling, working out in the gym, or playing sport.
From the view of an Exercise Physiologist, exercise includes movements, body positions, or specific motor actions that aim to improve the way the brain, organs, joints, and muscles function.
For example, as an Exercise Physiologist for children I often provide children with the activity of throwing a ball back and forth. Now to most people this would be considered an activity to promote sport and physical activity. However, from my view I see this as an exercise or activity to promote spatial awareness (temporal and spatial), shoulder stabilisation, core strength, visual tracking, grasp and release, and postural control.
In my 5 day movement mini course I explain in more detail why children need 60 minutes of 'huff and puff' movement per day, how to help children achieve the recommended amount of exercise per day, and how you can track children's success with their movement goals.
If you don't have time to enrol today, I'll quickly explain why daily exercise or movement is important for children.
Why is daily movement important for children?
Firstly, when we exercise or move our body our heart beats more beats per minute and pumps more blood around our body. The reason our heart rate increases with movement is because our muscles and brain are fueled by oxygen and energy, our blood carries oxygen and energy to our muscles and brain, and to send more oxygen and energy to our body, our heart needs to pump more times per minute to get the blood moving quickly around our body.
Without enough oxygen and energy being pumped from our heart to our body, our muscles are unable to move like they are designed to.
So with every movement that our body makes, we have more oxygen and energy moving around our body.
From a neurological or brain perspective, this increased oxygen and energy to the brain:
reduces our anxiety
increases our focus and attention
improves executive function
stimulates the prefrontal cortex which controls our behaviour
improves our sleep and mood
In my own personal experience working in schools throughout Melbourne, children who are spending excessive hours sitting sedentary watching TV or playing video games, typically have difficulty with focusing and paying attention in class, following simple instructions, remembering classroom content, and difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviour.
My passion is to encourage more children to move - not only for their motor development but also for their learning and health.