Eat. Sleep. Move.
Jeremiah Chapman CSCS, SCCC, Pn-1
How many times have you heard an adult make the statement, “I wish I had that much energy,” when watching children run and play? As a parent, what can we do to postively harness all that energy?
For the first time in generations, the average child’s expected lifespan is predicted to be shorter than their parents. This is due to an increase in childhood obesity rates, which are at an all-time high, and other lifestyle related diseases that are affecting children’s social and psychological well-being. Even more troubling is that in a time when this is happening, Physical Education classes are being removed and/or cut short to ensure enough time is allotted to focus on test scores. Based on what we know about the value of physical education, is it fair to kids for PE an elective-type class that is attended every third day? Countless studies have shown that kids who participate in some form of physical activity focus more intently and retain more information than their peers who are sedentary. Movement should be mandatory!
We are more apt to label kids on their inability to focus and seek medical interventions rather than let them run, play, jump and have fun with their peers. These skill sets are how humans evolved. The basics shouldn’t be restricted as they are necessary for daily function and wellbeing. Numerous studies have shown that exercise can be more beneficial than taking medication, yet it is easier for people to go to their doctor than to get up and move for 30 minutes a day.
How to Fix It
Eat better. Sleep more. Move often!
Eat to Perform
Nutrition plays a huge role in how our bodies function. The more junk we put in, the less likely we are to feel our best. It has long been stated that breakfast is important meal of the day and has been advised by mom’s everywhere. However, if breakfast consists of pop-tarts and fruity pebbles, more harm may be done than good. One can expect rollercoaster insulin spikes followed by a plunge in energy levels that affect one’s behavior and ability to focus. Sugary foods also cause inflammation in the body which can lead to issues in joints and brain health. In fact, the typical Western diet consisting of processed foods has been linked to 80% of heart disease and at least a third of known cancers can be traced back a diet laced with sugar. Scary!
Start by eating whole foods and avoiding processed junk. Anything that can sit on a shelf for years has likely been stripped of most nutritional benefits and will more than likely have little benefit. Fruits, veggies, lean meats, fish and good healthy fats should make up the majority of any diet, including that of young kids.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep may be the most important and overlooked component to childhood development. It is recommended that children, ages 6-13, get at least 9 hours of sleep. Between practice, games, school activities and other influences on hectic daily schedules, sleep is often neglected. As most can attest, lack of sleep can make monsters out of anyone, especially a child who is overly tired and being asked to sit up and focus for eight hours a day at school. Keeping a consistent night time routine and ensuring enough sleep is a simple way to increase a child’s energy levels and focus throughout the day.
Keep Them Moving
The vestibular (sensory) system works to give you a sense of balance and equilibrium. This is the first system to develop in a fetus and is responsible for sending all sensory information to the brain. In fact, all systems in the human body are routed through the vestibular system making it incredibly important. Don’t take my word. Ask someone who has suffered from vertigo and they will tell you just how important the vestibular system is to having a healthy life. The great news: your vestibular system can be strengthened and even improved by MOVING.
Keep kids moving. We were made to run and play. Allow kids to do what they are naturally inclined to do. When asked to sit and focus for short periods of time after a healthy dose of exercise (30 minutes), their attention and clarity might surprise you. If a 30 minute time block is too long, take 5-10 minutes during class to get up and move several times throughout the day. This will improve attention and allow kids the opportunity to be physically stimulated. By offering opportunities to exercise and move during these critical periods of childhood development, children will be positively impacted while promoting a healthy and productive lifestyle for years to come.
Make it a priority for your kids to eat, sleep and move daily. Help them develop great habits and apply them consistently to positively impact their childhood and future wellbeing.