Recess is an important part of the day for students even when school is happening remotely.
And, being active is important for adults, too. So, while so many people are learning and working from home, add family recess to the schedule.
“It’s just a great way to bring the family together,” said Dr. Cicely White, chief of pediatrics for Kaiser Permanente in Spokane.
Beyond the bonding time, being active has lots of physical and mental health benefits, including strengthening muscles and bones, improving cardiac health, enhancing sleep quality, reducing stress and improving focus and concentration.
School-age children and adolescents should be moderately or vigorously active for 60 minutes a day, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that 60 minutes doesn’t have to happen all at once, White said.
“Shorter breaks throughout the day help you regroup, refocus when you’re losing that attention span,” she said.
Plus, breaking it up into smaller segments “just seems more doable, more achievable,” she said.
For physical health benefits, parents and kids should aim for at least 10 or 15 minutes. But just getting up and doing a few jumping jacks or some stretching can help students and adults clear their heads and re-energize in between computer sessions, she said.
Parents can be role models for their children, demonstrating the importance of making activity part of the normal routine, she said.
“It’s just another part of daily life, the same way you get up and brush your teeth every morning.”
Both low- and high-intensity exercise has value, White said. It also doesn’t necessarily need a lot of space, a gym membership or expensive equipment, she said. For example, try jumping jacks, jump roping, dancing or yoga.
Making physical activity slightly competitive (timed challenges, for instance) and getting kids to come up with their own games will help keep the family engaged, White said.
Her ideas for family recess include:
• Dance party – Turn on the music and dance in the living room. “That’s enough to get your heart rate up and pumping,” White said.
• Obstacle course – Either inside or outside, create a path to run, jump and roll through.
• Timed scavenger hunt – Be the first to find 10 things that start with the letter P, or find eight different kinds of leaves.
• Walk to the park – Enjoy fresh air and the neighborhood. Then, once you’re at the park, run, jump, play catch and play at the playground.
If parents are having trouble getting older kids away from video games, White suggests finding a game or device that encourages them to stand up and interact with the screen.
“For some preteens and teenagers, that may be more interesting to them than being outside and jumping rope,” she said.
It’s important to create the element of choice so kids have buy-in, she said.
Whatever a family does, exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore, she said. “Being active can absolutely be fun.”
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