Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to add physical activity to your homeschool

by hornblower

This is the time of year we can't get away from the fitness challenges, the Live Right Now campaigns, the resolutions, the full gyms, the streets full of huffing joggers navigating puddles or snow drifts - depending on climate.

And over the past 18 months, there's been a flurry of interesting reports (see links at bottom) about the effects of prolonged sitting on our health.

The gist is this:
The longer people spend sitting, the more likely they are to die prematurely, regardless of their fitness levels (emphasis added)
Source:  Sitting and screen time: how they affect your health - CBC.ca
Eeeeeeeek. It turns out that even if you're fit, even if you get lots of exercise, the more of your day you spend sitting, the greater your risk of premature death.

So that got me thinking about homeschooling, and our lives, and how lucky we are that we can try to counteract some of the damage of sedentary activities such as poring over Latin grammar and Algebra (not to mention spending too much time on the computer!)


Keep lessons short and; build in regular physical activity breaks

Some of the research indicated that even simply standing up from a chair can counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting. But why not do more? Simple chores such as emptying and loading the dishwasher, running downstairs to move laundry from washer to dryer, or crawling under the bed to rescue the latest issue of Calliope magazine are fast and simple breaks to get the body moving in only a few minutes before returning to our lessons.

Exercise while waiting

When teaching more than one student, it is not uncommon for one kid to get stuck and be waiting for assistance from the parent. A common way of dealing with this is to just advise the kid to 'move on to the next thing that you DO know how to do and I'll help you with the difficult thing later'. Or just 'read quietly and don't disturb us'.

Instead, how about suggesting a bit of physical exercise:

  • Run around the perimeter of the house.
  • Do 50 jumping jacks.
  • Get a skipping rope and start skipping.
  • If you keep a skipping rope handy by the door, anyone (including parents!) can quickly grab it, head out a few feet and just skip.

It clears the head and gets the heart pumping. And who knows? Maybe while the student is jumping and wiggling around, all of a sudden they themselves will figure out what they were stuck on and turn out not to need your help after all.

Get rid of the chair

Consider using an exercise ball instead of a chair. The gentle rocking motion requires your abs and glutes to remain engaged. And you can always roll away for a bit of a stretch. For those of us who hunch over a computer keyboard for excessive chunks of the day, stretching your upper back on a ball is blissful.

Or get an adult sized jumping ball like this. You can sit on it and hop between desk and bookcases and go in search of the missing book/pencil/ruler all on your hoppy ball.

Some students also really enjoy bouncing or wiggling on exercise balls during memorization drills or narrations or review and many report that they learn better when able to move like this.

Plan short and simple exercise sessions into your at-home lesson schedule

We've been trying a few sessions from Do Yoga With Me and so far they're great! Free, easy to follow and with a minimum of woo-woo.

Use a Wii Fit or similar for some quick physical activity at home

Use a treadmill if you have one. If you download audio books and listen to assigned literature readings (or Teaching Company Lectures) on headphones, you can exercise and get smart all at the same time.

Nature walks and nature study

A staple in Charlotte Mason style education, nature study is of course a wonderful way to not only anchor studies, but to provide a good dose of healthy exercise. Depending on the age of your kids and your academic goals, however, you may not be able to fit in prolonged outings on a daily basis. But there's nothing like getting outside, even for a brief time.

So encourage your kids to pop outside, smell the air, hear the birds. They can take a short walk, a quick bike ride, even a brief stroll through a yard - and why not rake some leaves, pick some weeds, carry one bucket of compost - these tasks are kind of fun when you only have to do a few minutes' worth and there's no actual expectation of 'finishing'. After all, you have to get back to your lessons :-)

Got more ideas? Please share!

Stay healthy!

Additional Sources:

Sitting takes toll on body  

Too much sitting after work harms heart

Sitting and screen time: how they affect your health

© 2011 hornblower

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hornblower, a savvy, homeschooling momma of two, blogs about all manner of things at Indefatigable. She kindly gave permission for this article to be reposted here.

Other links that may interest you:

One Hundred Pushups
Two Hundred Sit-Ups
Couch-to-5k Running Plan