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10 WAYS EXERCISE HELPS YOU FOCUS IN CLASS|
By Stephen Putnam
It's back-to-school with KidsRunning.Com! The easy days of summer are coming to a close. The kids will soon be expected to be in their classrooms, sitting still, focused, and ready to learn at all times. For some this will be no problem at all, but for others, particularly those youngsters who have been blessed with that little extra bit of energy, the challenge will begin.
KidsRunning.Com invited Stephen C. Putnam, author of Nature's Ritalin for the Marathon Mind, Nurturing Your ADHD Child with Exercise to develop a back-to-school checklist with strategies to help kids stay focused in class. We hope that you find this checklist useful and we highly recommend Stephen Putnam's book. It's full of tips and ideas for helping your child through the world of exercise. If you have a child with ADHD or ADD, you'll return to the book often.
Do you sit on the edge of your chair in the classroom? Do you wish that your teacher would get the math over with and find something that's more interesting to talk about? Do you blurt out answers, tap your fingers or daydream? Welcome to the club. You may be a victim of inactivity. Thousands of years of successful evolution have equipped you with some of the best coping mechanisms that nature can buy. Exercise is one of nature's best stimulants for calming and focusing. Recent research suggests that those of us who are restless and are more prone to exercising may experience the greatest mental benefits of exercise over a lifetime. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, 'supercharges' our neurochemistry for focus and promotes brain growth. Here are ten ways to exercise your most important muscle; your brain. No matter what routine you decide to try, give it six weeks before deciding if it's doing the trick.
1. Jog before school. Experiment with shorter workouts. Try twenty minute workouts with different intensities; between 65 & 80 %. Make sure to throughly cool and calm down after your exercise. Avoid going to class 'wound up' after overdoing a before school workout.
2. To get ready to focus on your homework, try a short, easy, 20 minute,
after school jog. For long term effects, try longer jogs at a moderate
intensity (roughly 75%) for forty-five minutes, allowing 10 minutes for warmup
and ten for warm down, five days a week. If you are fit and more ambitious,
save longer workouts for Friday afternoon or Saturday to allow time to
recover. Experiment. More exercise is not always better.
3. During class, try squeezing a stress ball.
4. Some kids who can't spell sitting, can spell standing up. If your teacher allows it, stand in the back of the classroom or try pacing.
5. If your school schedules recess or after lunch breaks, make sure that you're active. Walk, run, or play games that allow you to move continuously.
6. If your parents are willing, seek out weekend and after school activities. Opportunities range from running and bike races to martial arts or extreme sports: skate boarding, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, downhill skiing can also relieve restlessness. For sports that involve an element of danger, find a certified instructor. Extreme sport prowess usually benefits from a mix of aerobic activity during the week.
7. Developing coordination 'hardwires' parts of the brain that also perform academic functions. For instance, juggling or playing a musical instrument might improve the brain's ability to sequence, a useful ability when solving math problems. While you can't accurately guess which motor skills produce which mental benefits, a good bet would be to try something that you're attracted to.
8. Avoid inactivity that gives little or nothing back. Watching TV not only takes up time that can be used for exercise. It may also 'short-circuit' audio processing functions, in the brain, that make paying attention more difficult.
9. Scaffold. Use tricks that you've learned while playing or exercising to help when you're studying. If you can run the last mile in a road race, then you can finish that last math problem on the final test. If you're able to plan ahead for mountain bike jumps, then use those same skills for planning your homework.
10. Look for offbeat excuses to exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Ask Mom to park at the far end of the parking lot, so that you can get walk a little farther. Take a walk to the post office instead of getting a ride.
(From his book) Stephen C. Putnam holds an M.Ed. degree in Guidance and Psychological Services from Springfield College. As an adult marathon paddler, Steve's life was changed by the magic of exercise. Among other things, he learned that tranquility is not just a concept. Canoe racing became a family activity. At different times, paddling allowed his son, Adam, and daughter, Heather, to take charge as stern paddlers. The fun provided the initial research and insight that nature might supply the Ritalin. As it turned out, dopamine deprivation is correctable.