Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

Feb/March 13 Exercise

February - March 2013 Monthly Ed Tip!

Exercise, Play, and the Timing of Play Matters

Plato not only recognized the importance of the interaction of the “mind-body connection” but also laid the groundwork for the use of the term “scholar-athlete” which is now widely used by the NCAA and a term that would of made much sense to the ancient Greeks.

Olga Jarrett, associate professor of Early Childhood Education at Georgia State University, has found that “recess helps children stay physically fit and mentally on-task while in the classroom.” She monitored the behaviors of one class of students, comparing their behaviors at the same time each day over the course of several months. There was only one variable. Some days the students had recess before the class started, while other days they had already been working for a few hours.

The result is no great surprise to those of us who know children well. Physical activity is good for body and brain alike.

Jarrett found that recess helped students keep their minds on-task. “On the days the students had recess before class, the children were more focused and less fidgety,” explained Jarrett. “Following a recess break, the children were more likely to be doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

Why does this happen? Now, however, armed with brain-scanning tools and sophisticated understanding of biochemistry, researchers are realizing that the mental effects of exercise are far more profound than they once thought. As often seems the case, modern analytical methods have proved the intuitive advice of one of the early Greek philosophers was correct. Plato had it right when he wrote some 2,400 years ago, “In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.”

While the research shows that it’s critical for children to play, Jarrett stresses that the positive impact of recess can be maximized – if only schools would get the timing right.

The problem is that many schools schedule recess before or after lunch, or as the last class of the day. Jarrett says, “Those aren’t the best times, because both lunch and recess should be used to form breaks in the day.”

Think about it: For a working adult, that’s like scheduling one 15-minute coffee break immediately before lunch and the second 15 minutes before you are scheduled to go home.

ADHD Rats and Play

Jack Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University, manipulated brains of young rats that made them mimic the brains of children with ADHD. (As a sidelight, Panksepp coined the term 'affective neuroscience', the name for the field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotion.) He found that rats with laboratory-induced ADHD played more frequently than rats whose brains had not been altered. He then divided the rats into two groups: those who were allowed to play as much as they wanted and those who were allowed only limited play. The results were surprising. The rats that were allowed many opportunities for play did not become more wild, rambunctious, or violent. Instead, they simply played normally and grew up to be non-hyperactive and socially well-adjusted adults.

However, the hyperactive rats that had only limited opportunities for play grew into rather rambunctious rats that had difficulty reading social cues from other rats.

This convinced Panksepp that the restlessness seen in children with ADHD might simply be the children’s way of expressing an innate need for more play. Instead of medicating children to stifle their behavior, Panksepp argues for providing children with more opportunity to meet their needs. “Clearly play seems to an essential part of social and brain development,” says Panksepp. “It’s only after the need for play has been met that animals are ready to move on to more mature stages of development.”

We don’t expect adults to engage in highly focused mental activities for hours on end without a break. Breaks (in the form of recess) are no less important for children, and Panksepp’s research suggests that they’re even more important for students with ADHD.


Want to Live Longer? Then Walk! - Walking more than an hour a day improves life expectancy significantly: September 11, 2012

According to Lisa Collier Cool, every minute you walk can extend your life by 1.5 to 2 minutes. In addition, regular walker live longer, weigh less, have lower blood pressure, and enjoy better overall health than non-walkers according to many studies.

Check out the ten benefits of walking

Walking increases your life span: Life expectancy improved significantly by walking more than an hour a day.

Walking wards off diabetes: Just 30 minutes of walking a day can prevent type 2 diabetes and if you already have diabetes, a mile or more daily cuts your risk of death from all causes in half

Walking keeps your mind sharp: Walking around 6 to 9 miles a week helps increase gray matter, which in turn lowers the risk of suffering from cognitive impairment such as concentration and memory. Can’t find the time to walk 6 to 9 miles, try 5 miles, which leads to slower decline in memory loss and learning areas of the brain of those already suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Walking lowers blood pressure: Just 30 minutes of walking per day three to five days a week has been found to significantly lower blood pressure.

Walking is great for bone health: Walking about a mile per day leads to improved bone density in post-menopausal women. “It takes walkers 4 to 7 years longer to reach the point of very low bone density, study leader Dr. Krall told the New York Times.

Walking cuts the risk of stroke: A Harvard University study looking at over 11,000 alumni found that walking 12.5 miles a week cut the risk of stroke in half.

Walking improves your mood: According to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, walking lifted moods more quickly than anti-depressants did and with fewer side effects, and just thirty minutes per day on a treadmill reduces feelings of depression.

Walking consumes calories: Walking 20 minutes per day will burn 7 pounds a year.

Walking improves insomnia: Want to sleep at night, then walk in the morning. According to research from the Fred Hutchinson Research Center in Seattle, taking a 45-minute walk in the morning five days a week may significantly improve your sleep. But be aware, the opposite is not true: walking in the evening sometimes has the opposite effect.

Walking improves the heart: Thirty to forty percent of the over 72,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study who took brisk walks for 3 or more hours per week reduced their risk of heart disease by 30-40 percent. For men ages 71 to 93, another study reported walking can cut the risk of heart disease in half.


Try Better family Routines to Fight Childhood Obesity: April 11, 2012

What is the real answer to the childhood obesity epidemic? Can it be as simple as having family meals together? W. Douglas Tynan, associate professor of pediatrics at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia Pa, writes that two research studies done years and oceans apart suggest that three family routines – setting limits on TV, having family meals together, and getting children to bed on time – could reduce kids’ risk for obesity by 40 percent, while food choices and exercise alone have proven less successful.

Could strengthening these routines at your house help prevent or reverse weight gains in your kids? There’s enough evidence to give it a try.


“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.