Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last month, you’ve heard or seen an outpouring of news stories linking exercise and activity to wellness, which in turn is linked to increased workplace productivity and improved cognitive functioning.
While this strikes me as a memo from the “Blindingly Obvious Dept.”, I’m going to suspend my sarcasm and first look in the mirror. Yes, I strive to be active each day knowing this is good for me, my brain and people I work with. And yet, I know I am easily capable of busting right through and working excessively, compromising my pledge to be active as part of a healthy lifestyle. I see the same as true for my colleagues in SelfDesign and, actually, just about every workplace I check out these days.
The news reports I’ve heard are based on sound research and come with much good advice from health care workers and managers exhorting me, and workers of all stripes, to get with the healthy life-and-work style program. Even the Conference Board of Canada has lately pronounced that we’re larding out and this is hammering our bottom line. (Memo to self and others: Move thy butt!)
What’s missing from the stories I’m hearing are the links to wellness for kids learning in our classrooms, where the predominant activity is sitting. NOW CUE THE BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS MEMO: Surely the suggestions for augmenting overall wellness for adults through physical activity in workplaces equally apply to kids and young adults in school settings!
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the notion of institutional learning became synched with sitting for extended periods of time, possibly to help control a perceived political dynamic (grand educator-ruling-over-stripling student) and also out of deference to a learned mentor (think Socrates). But this ‘habitude’, brought forward to the present era of mass schooling where we have come to expect kids 5-17 years (at least) to sit for hours at a time under the pretext of learning, doesn’t square with research; in fact, at some point it is clearly counterproductive to learning.
As I mention in my book, Learn Your Way! movement is synched to much learning. Kids know this and respond enthusiastically to opportunities to move and play. And learn. In fact, our neurology evolved in synch with our physiology over at least 100 million years and physical activity conjoins and stimulates mental and emotional fitness and, indeed, learning.
Educators and administrators need to wake up to this reality and help integrate activity and exercise into lesson plans. And as for Homework how about doing students a favour and assigning a walk, a game of frisby, raking leaves, a bike ride, etc., instead of more seat time!
(nb – I’m off this Friday to the “Neuroplasticity and the Brain” conference, hosted by Eaton-Arrowsmith School. The conference features a great line-up of speakers including Drs Rick Hanson, John Ratey and Gabor Maté. I’m looking forward to meeting up with colleagues new and old!).
For information on my book: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now (2011) and to order a copy, go here.