Photo Credit: Jewish Press

With students returning to school either in person or virtually – we are all aware of the toll that the amount of sitting can take on their bodies. And for many students, gym and recess have been cancelled.

We all know that children need gym for their bodies, after all, children with sedentary lifestyles are at risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as type II diabetes. But, research shows that more physical activity is also linked to increased academic achievement. In fact, children who were more physically fit generally scored higher on math and reading tests than their less physically fit peers. This means that kids who move more on a regular basis will generally do better than their more sedentary peers.

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Short bursts of exercise can also be beneficial, a study out of the University of Rome found that elementary school children who exercised for a few minutes right before taking a test improved their scores by an average of ten percent. According to Dr. John Ratey, the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, exercise causes the brain to produce a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). This protein helps to build and preserve connections between neurons and other cells. Basically what this means is that through exercise, children’s brains build more cells in order to improve their memory and retention of material. Additionally, exercise produces neurotransmitters like serotonin that can improve mood, which in turn can enhance children’s motivation and focus.

Whether your child is at home or in school learning, incorporate brain breaks – time for movement that can actually jump start the brain. These brain breaks can be 2 minutes of jumping jacks, a quick walk around the block, a 10 minute bike ride, or even a few minutes of yoga stretches. The important thing is not to forget about the body while the brain does all of the heavy lifting.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.