As Miss Utah, I have the opportunity to advocate and educate on important issues. Something very important to me is my Social Impact Initiative, “The MOVEMENT Movement,” which is all about getting people moving and how that impacts us mentally, physically, and emotionally. For this blog post, I want to share how important my initiative is and what steps you can take to get movement in your life!
Movement Is Magic
Have you ever been in class at school or sitting at your desk at work and suddenly you start to get a little sleepy, or your mind starts to wander and think about other things? That probably means you need to get up and MOVE!
Our bodies were designed to move, not to be sedentary. With our rapidly growing technological world where cars move for us, our physical activity is being chipped away. Physical activity and movement are crucial for all ages and all people. Incorporating movements into your day can help you feel healthier, happier, and improve the quality of your life.
A study done in 2017 by the Utah Department of Health collected that only 17.9% of students in Utah are reaching the required daily sixty minutes of physical activity. Most students take fewer than 5,000 steps during a non-PE school day when they are required to have at least 10,000. It is no surprise that student’s mental health is on the decline as well.
Whatever the grade or subject area, every teacher can effectively incorporate movement into the school day. I hear many teachers too often say, “Eyes watching, ears listening, voices quiet, bodies still.” When a teacher sees a student fidgeting in their seat, they are described as being “off-task,” but research suggests that moving or fidgeting with materials actually allows a student to better focus on a task, improve their academics, and improve any behavioral problems in the classroom.
Movement has been proven to:
Improve Memory: If you were to start singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, it would probably be difficult for you to not do the actions along with it. That’s because movement or actions enhance memory. When we exercise, muscles release a protein called cathepsin B that appears to generate new cells and improves connections in the hippocampus, which is part of the brain that controls memory.
Relieve Stress: When we move, our body releases chemicals that boost our sense of well-being and suppresses stress and anxiety hormones. It increases endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine, which make us happy.
Increase Focus: If we utilize energizing movement activities during a single class period, or a few times during each hour, that increases blood flow in the body, stimulating brain function. By intentionally incorporating these breaks into the day, students remain longer in their optimal learning state.
What Can Schools and Teachers Do?
In a perfect world, physical education would take place every day. However, that isn’t our reality. Recess is more limited, P.E is only a few days a week or in a rotation, and students are sitting more frequently. Adding stretching, chair push-ups, using yoga balls, breathing exercises, jumping like you are on a trampoline, doing yoga, utilizing cross body exercises, jumping jacks, and squats, can impact students in many ways. There are also many resource curriculums on different subjects like math and science that utilize movement exercises. It is a great way to get students engaged in learning.
What Can Parents Do?
Movement activities don’t have to stop when the school day ends. Parents can encourage their kids to have movement breaks every 8 – 20 minutes while doing homework – push-ups, jumping jacks, quick sprints, scooter, or bike up and down the driveway, etc. These don’t have to be long breaks, sometimes all kids need is a few minutes to get refocused.
What Can You Do at Work?
The CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, and 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise. With our sedentary lifestyles, adding movement into your work day will help you reach optimal physical activity requirements.
I am so excited to be able to share my initiative across the state this year. I have some big plans in the works so stay tuned. During my year as Miss Utah County, I was able to collaborate with the Utah County Health Department to bring movement-based activities – or what I call “Brain Breaks,” to classrooms across Utah. I have linked my videos with them down below so you can use them in your classroom, at work, or at home.
Now here’s a challenge for you: After reading this, get up and do 15 jumping jacks and feel the benefits that moving will have on your life.