We know an active child is generally more relaxed than a child who has been cooped up inside all day. This has been found to be true by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism who recently published a study that shows the correlations between exercise, activity, and stress levels. They found that the more active the child is, the more likely they are to cope with setbacks and handle stress with ease. They also measured Cortisol levels; a hormone induced by physical and mental stress and contributes to weight gain. The children who were least active had the highest levels of cortisol, did worse on psychological and academic testing. Those who had a higher activity level were better able to self-regulate. As we know from adult levels of cortisol, chronic stress impacts this hormone, causing more stress, weight gain, and contributing to mood disorders.
Exercise, and activity, even in small breaks throughout the day can really assist in long term mental health. Many of the children we work with have found more balance, regulated moods, and ability to maintain focus with movement breaks during the day, especially after school. It allows them to get out some of the stress they have been holding on to during the day. Add in some sprints, jumping jacks, a team sport, or even a 30 minute trip to the park into your child’s routine. It will help them learn to self-soothe and be better prepared to hit the books for the homework session ahead.
Other reasons to get moving:
- All that exercise and fresh air will help kiddos (and adults) sleep better, getting out the restlessness from the day of sitting.
- Make at an opportunity to teach your kids about nature. Talk about what they see and discuss how the environment works.
- Get creative with sidewalk chock and the games we grew up with like hop scotch, grab some neighbors and play kick the can or have them make up relay races.
- Take a technology break. Although TV can calm the brain it doesn’t do much for releasing the stored up energy. Take a detour to a bike path or nature trail before heading home from school.
The more kids are active, the higher their level for stress tolerance, their level for focus increases, and it increases their ability to communicate with you. When you kids them away from the computer, cell phone, hours of homework, or television, they are likely to open up more. Taking a break from school work, is likely to recharge their batteries, which leads to more effective use of study time, and happier kids.
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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