Yeah, yeah, we know, we know. Physical activity and exercise is good for health and great for your brain.
- Exercise makes your smarter
- Physical activity predicts academic achievement
- Exercise builds brain connectivity
- Helps with building a better brain
- It’s the one thing you should do for your brain
Physical activity helps with the development of executive functions, in particular working memory, and fluid intelligence. It is also great for improving emotional well-being and mental health. In fact, physical activity is a great tool for helping children with stress management.
The Exercise Effect – the science is clear, exercise should be used in the treatment of mental health issues:
- It is a mood enhancer than can alleviate depression symptoms
- Exercise can treat and possibly prevent anxiety
- It buffers the brain to make it more resilient against stress
See also: Exercise for Mental Health – Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006; 8(2): 106.
Last, but not least, physical activity can help us combat those “weighty” issues. While I don’t want to give my child a complex about his weight, I do worry about how much he loves his food.
So what’s stopping us from enrolling our kids into every after-school sport activity available? Well, if you’re like me and you have a child who doesn’t like to move, let alone engage in exercise, that might be why. How then do we encourage this child to clock in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day without having to play drill sargeant? The answer fell into my lap during a recent trip to the playgrounds in Melbourne.
Burning Calories at the Playground
During one of our many park visits, I sat down on a swing to rest my legs while the boys played. Without thinking about it, I started to swing. Despite the chill Melbourne air, I noticed that I was starting to feel warmer. As I puzzled over that, I could feel my core muscles automatically contracting and relaxing along with the movements of the swing. Could it be – I was working out without even realising it?
A cousin of mine once said that if you want to lose weight, you should follow a baby’s every move. If you’ve ever seen how much a baby moves, it not hard to imagine how much energy they can expend in a day. But I’d never really tested that theory until we took my 14 month old niece to the jungle gym for the first time.
Working Out at the Jungle Gym
Ordinarily, when I take the boys to a jungle gym, I usually let them go nuts while I sit in a corner sipping my coffee, reading my phone. Since my niece was too little to roam around on her own, we couldn’t exactly leave her to fend for herself among the big kids. For the first time in a long while, I had to climb through tunnels, and get on the slides with her. After a thoroughly exhausting day, I had the recorded following stats on my Garmin:
I did not hit the 10,000 step goal or walk as much as I usually do on a normal day. Since I was too exhausted from running around at the jungle gym, I skipped my evening workout. Without my usual physical activities, I was surprised to discover that I had expended 200-300 calories more than a regular day with exercise! The following screenshots are from three normal days recorded on the Garmin Fenix 3. The tall orange bars at the bottom right represent my evening workout.
Wow! Maybe I should get off my behind and stop drinking coffee while the children play. Perhaps I should also exchange the evening workout for a bout of “jungle gym-ing” with the kids. Who would have thought running around the jungle gym could burn so many calories?
Do you know what else is gives you a pretty good workout?
High Ropes Course
Yeah, those rope courses, like the ones at SkyTrex in Shah Alam or the Forest Adventure in Bedok. According to my Garmin, I clocked in 968 active calories on the day we went to SkyTrex. This was the result of doing the “baby” rope course at SkyTrex.
I wonder what the calorie damage would have been if I had done the Intermediate or Big Thrill Adventure.
If outdoor rope courses are too hot for you, then you can also try these indoor places:
The best thing about a rope course is that I don’t have to twist any arms to go. Well, at least, not any more.
Physical Activity: Walking Works Too
If all else fails, there’s always walking. Yeah, I hear you. My kids grumble about walking, too. Sometimes they complain so much I want to throw up – blood. Unless they’re highly motivated to walk, like in Disneyland or Kidzania. Holidays in places like Club Med work pretty well, too. Check out my step count from Club Med!
So there you go… It’s not really that hard to get the kids moving even if they don’t do organised sports.