[STAFF EDITORIAL] Promote healthy habits by incorporating movement in class


Annika Kim

OUTSIDE THE BOX. Engaging in classroom activities that aren’t static doesn’t automatically mean students will be distracted or unproductive. Using the opportunity to expand learning content outside the classroom has many benefits that can improve engagement, focus, and health.

In MS French classes, five minutes of nearly every period are set aside for dancing. Students follow along with a disco tutorial from a program called 5-a-day and then transition back to work.

While the disco focus may be unique to the French program, movement breaks as part of learning are not. But when students enter ninth grade, these pauses become much less common.

As education becomes increasingly digital, most classes are spent sitting down, alternating between staring at a laptop and a SmartBoard. While there’s plenty of discourse surrounding the negative impacts of computer screens, there’s not enough about all the time students spend in chairs. According to an article in Yale Medicine, spending too much time in a chair has been linked to a host of health concerns, including diabetes, poor heart health, weight gain, depression, dementia, and multiple cancers. Researchers also found an association between extended sitting and early death from any cause.

Between 60 and 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, or anything that raises heart rate and causes sweat, can offset the impacts of too much sitting.

Luckily, these consequences have a relatively simple solution. Between 60 and 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity, or anything that raises heart rate and causes sweat, can offset the impacts of too much sitting.

That said, unless you’re a member of a sports team or club that practices or plays daily, it can be hard to set aside enough time to exercise. Students and teachers alike can struggle to balance workload with healthy habits. Sometimes, with the lack of light in the winter and the exhaustion of the day, a workout feels like an impossible task.

Eric Holder, a Yale Medicine physiatrist, recommends breaks every 30 minutes instead, suggesting a quick walk or stretch.

Walking can be especially beneficial; a Stanford University study found that walking distinctly improves the ability to generate creative ideas, an effect that lasts even after sitting back down. The same study showed no significant difference between activity performed outside versus inside; a couple of laps around the halls is just as beneficial as a walk around the block.

Incorporating breaks into the classroom schedule is a simple way to promote physical activity and healthy habits. Though it may seem like downtime would interrupt the flow of class, a five-minute unstructured break provides an opportunity for students to step away from their work, reset, and come back refreshed and ready to learn. Alternatively, it’s easy to include a little structured movement by having students complete an activity in the hallway or holding small group discussions on a walk.

As the weather gets warmer, having some classroom activities outside is also an option; a change of location is another way to add a little movement during the school day.

As a student, it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to re-energize. When a teacher calls for a five-minute break, don’t spend it slumped in a chair. Stand up and move a little—it may come as a surprise how much it will improve your day.

This story was originally published in the March issue of The Rubicon.