Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. today — impacting around 17% of children and teens. While this has spurred plenty of diet fads and lifestyle suggestions, the best way to combat obesity and improve our children’s health is actually a very simple concept: get them moving.
Increasing the amount of physical activity (i.e. movement) you engage in each day has an enormously positive effect on your health, weight, and energy levels. Since our school-aged children spend more than half of their waking hours in an educational setting, classrooms are the prime location for increasing physical activity in our young ones.
Enter the “brain booster.” Schools across the country are incorporating brain boosters into classrooms, to keep students active and engaged throughout the day. Brain boosters are short breaks that focus on movement — enhancing blood flow, delivering more oxygen to the brain, and optimizing concentration. This is not only essential in the fight against obesity, but research suggests that small activity breaks during classes actually help students to stay focused on the learning process.
In a world where obesity rates are soaring, and the average child’s attention span is shrinking, brain boosters could be the answer to healthier, more successful students.
What Is a Brain Booster?
Picture your typical elementary or middle school classroom. During most lessons, children spend their time sitting at their desks, as the teacher instructs. While this is the simplest way for an educator to manage a large classroom, sitting for long periods of time has significant disadvantages for kids. This not only makes it difficult for children to get the physical activity they need, but it can also make it harder for them to pay attention and learn.
The truth is, children need to move. When they are sitting for too long, they often start to fidget to generate that movement, and stop paying attention to whatever they should be learning. Rather than chastising them for shuffling in their seats, research suggests we should be encouraging frequent physical activity in the form of brain boosters.
Ideally, schools would incorporate more time for physical education into their schedules, but that takes time to implement. As an easier supplement, students can benefit from brain boosters throughout the day.
These boosters are short periods during class, in which teachers pause the lesson to encourage kids to move and re-energize themselves. Brain boosters refresh the way kids think and approach problems. During a moment of activity, the brain switches away from learning, rejuvenates, and then flips back into education mode with renewed vigor. Research has shown that short bouts of activity promote memory, cognition, and attention.
The Power of Movement
Movement is crucial to child development. Movement supports natural cognitive function by enhancing oxygen flow to the brain, and studies show that regular physical activity in the formative years can encourage long-term improvements in brainpower.
During 2008, the U.S. Department of Health issued guidelines for Americans aged six and older, which indicated that all adolescents and children should get at least 60 minutes of activity each day. To meet these recommendations, students need physical activity throughout their school day.
Using brain boosters to incorporate more physical activity is not just valuable for energizing the brain and supporting children’s health — it can also assist in breaking up the school day (outside of the P.E. class).
Brain boosters give children a chance to get moving, refresh, and take frequent breaks from the sedentary nature of the standard classroom. Various forms of research have shown that a greater devotion to physical education and activity throughout the school day could be beneficial to academic achievement.
How Can You Implement Brain Boosters?
There are plenty of fantastic resources, videos, and class lessons available online to give you inspiration for designing a brain booster during, before, or after a lesson. Most experts agree that the best time to enjoy a brain booster is after an activity — as the purpose of the “booster” is to get students refocused and ready to learn more.
For instance, after a math lesson, teachers may ask students to count the steps it takes to get back to their seats before they move onto the next task. Even something as small as this is a brain booster. Or, as you finish your math lesson and move on to an English lesson, pause in between to play a quick, active game.
The idea is to create something that’s short and effective. Depending on classroom space, teachers might need to use smaller movements, or large motor exercises. Either way, it’s important to:
- Be persistent when implementing new movement strategies in class.
- Ask for student input, as to the types of activities they’d like to do.
- Use music to encourage movement.
- Integrate movement into educational content as much as possible.
Signs of a Good Brain Booster
Any activity that gets a child up and moving makes a great brain booster.
Ideally, brain boosters should be:
Physical: Movement is crucial to an effective brain break. Whether it’s jumping, running, walking, or dancing, movement reduces stress, and promotes academic achievement. Plus, students get an extra chance to fight back against obesity.
Short: Every lesson doesn’t need to turn into a physical education class. Instead, teachers should simply take note of the times when their students seem distracted, and build quick energizing solutions into those periods.
Novel: Young minds thrive on new experiences — particularly when those experiences break up a daily routine. Adding variety to brain boosters is great for keeping students on their toes with activities that make them laugh and smile.
Valuable: Brain boosters can be a great way to build collaborative and communication skills — promoting many of the same benefits students get from physical education classes. From individual balance to group skills, brain boosters can enhance the fundamentals of physical education throughout the entire school day.
Incorporating Physical Activity and Brain Boosters
While brain booster activities can never replace full physical education classes, they deliver extra strength and energy to the educational experience. These brief moments of activity are fantastic for pulling some of the benefits of physical education into the standard classroom setting — including the rejuvenating and concentration-boosting nature of exercise!
Most teachers will be able to easily spot the best opportunities for brain boosters in their classes. When eyes begin to wander and children begin to fidget, it’s probably the perfect time for a break. Brain boosters give children the advantages of more physical activity, while teachers benefit from more focused, engaged learners.
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