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Why you & your kids need to move more.

Posted Oct 20 2013 8:10pm

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve started up another 1 credit online course for school that has proven to be more work than previous classes. It’s about promoting physical activity in schools so it’s not that it’s hard, it’s just been a bit more time-consuming that I expected. It’s so funny how common sense and research supports that when kids exercise or just move their bodies during school, their grades improve and get ready for it…..BMI decreases! Body Mass Index or BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. I noticed that my pediatrician’s office has been including this calculation on their physical health exam report for the past few years.  Being in the field of health and nutrition, I know that there is a separate calculator used to measure BMI in children starting at age 2.  Although it’s pretty easy to blow off BMI as an inaccurate measure of health in adults because it only takes into account a person’s height and weight and not body composition, (percentage of lean mass like muscle to fat mass) it actually can help to screen for overweight or underweight.  Here’s an example. Picture a body builder, you know someone who could pose on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine. Now picture that person being 5 feet tall. Calculate a BMI on them and you will absolutely get a score that puts that person into the morbidly obese category. You know for a fact that not only is this person not morbidly obese, but they are actually quite the opposite-they are fit. Now look at your friends and family. How many could fit into my above description? If I look at my friends and family I can actually think of a lot, but then again I spend a lot of time in my CrossFit gym where both the men and women have more muscle (therefore more weight) than the average person.

For kids, this calculation can be pretty accurate up until middle school; the place where I spend my days teaching adolescent kids how to be healthy. This is the age population where BMI can be way off. I teach grades 6 through 8 and the difference between the grades is nothing short of amazing. My 6th graders still look like elementary school kids while my 8th graders look like they could already be in high school. Growth spurts make all the difference. I remember having a conversation with a mother of one of my 7th grade boys last year. She expressed concern over her son’s weight over a conversation that his pediatrician had with them at a well-child visit. The doctor never said that he was fat but he did use the word overweight which really caused my student to become self-conscious and wonder if he was indeed too heavy. I assured her (this is her oldest child) that he was not overweight and that he just needed a growth spurt to even out. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him getting more exercise (which he wasn’t getting enough of) or eating healthier foods, but I reassured her that this was not a situation to be concerned about. Can I tell you that this boy had a huge growth spurt this past summer! He came into 8th grade looking like a young man-no longer the boy I had taught in 7th grade.  What made me even happier was when the parents introduced themselves to me during our open house last month. They thanked me for our conversation and expressed sincere gratitude. These situations don’t happen every day, but when they do I cherish them. I am reminded that as a teacher I have the ability to influence a child’s life. My goal every day is to make sure it is positive. I truly enjoy what I do for a living. Some days are harder than others, but overall I wouldn’t trade it for anything :-)

So what’s the point of this post? What’s my take-away message for you? The research shows that when you increase kids physical activity during the day (in their academic classes), BMI decreases and academic success increases. Do you think the same thought process could apply to adults, to you? Do you have a sedentary job? Do you spend a large portion of your day seated? Could you add in some light activity, movement, or stretching to break up your day? Take your day and divide it into hours, just like kids have a new class roughly every hour. I add movement into my lessons every 15-20 minutes when I am in the classroom teaching.  So if you work an 8 hour day, try to move once or twice each hour. Set an alarm on your computer or phone if you need to as a reminder. Get a colleague to do it with you! Here are some examples of movement breaks:

  • Create a “lap” and walk it. For me I can walk to the front office and back at school, or I could walk up and down my stairs and loop the first level of my house.
  • Standing squats
  • Push-ups (either on the floor or up against a table or chair)
  • Stretching (backbends, forward bends, any yoga pose you can safely do, a quick sun salutation, rotational, etc)
  • Stationary lunges
  • Seated triceps dips
  • Climb stairs
  • Pretend jump rope
  • March in place
  • Step-ups on a stool or stair
  • Sumo squats

If this post so far is not convincing you as to the negative health consequences sitting all day has, then maybe you should check out this quote from the American Institute for Cancer Research:

“As many as 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer occurring in the U.S. every year are linked to a lack of physical activity, according to estimates presented today at the American Institute for Cancer Research annual conference. The estimate underscores the critical role that both activity and inactivity play in the development of specific cancers.”

Or you can check out this quote from NPR :

“We’re finding that people who sit more have less desirable levels” of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and even waist size, he says, which increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of health problems.”

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Do you incorporate movement in your job? If so , what do you do? Tell us in the comments!

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