As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, many adults and children are settling into a new routine of working and learning from home. Children and their new teachers—often parents and grandparents—are finding ways to complete schoolwork at home, often with limited guidance or resources. For people working from home, that means finding ways to be productive, often while caring for and homeschooling children.
Most teachers and schools have provided assignments that cover the major subjects kids would do in school: English, math science, and social studies. It is critical to continue learning these subjects even when schools are closed. But a school day also includes other subjects like art, music, and PE. Unfortunately, projects for these subjects are probably not included in the distance learning resources provided by schools.
Far from a distraction, opportunities to be creative and physically active in school support and enhance learning and should be included at home, too. Research shows that physical activity can positively affect several factors that are related to academic performance. These include skills (attention, concentration, and memory), behaviors (classroom conduct and homework completion), and academic achievement (test scores and grades).
Regular physical activity is also essential for good health, growth, and physical development, including maintaining a healthy body weight. This last point is important given the epidemic of obesity and related health problems in children, including “adult” diseases like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Physical activity is also a great way to reduce feelings of stress, something that is especially relevant now.
Current recommendations call for all children to get at least 60 minutes of activity per day. This can include activity at school from physical education classes, recess, other classroom activities as well as games, sports, and unstructured play. All of these opportunities for activity can be part of a school day at home. Even if you aren’t a PE teacher, giving kids time to be active and play is critical to their health, learning, and wellbeing, so make sure you include recess in your home school plan.
Almost any activity counts, even if it is not structured. Active play, practicing sports, walking the dog, and running or bicycling around the neighborhood are excellent options. Given social distancing recommendations, it’s best to do these activities individually or as a family and to avoid public places like playgrounds. You can find ideas for PE activities at home online, many of which would make a good workout for adults, too. Even taking short breaks to get up and move throughout the day can have health and cognitive benefits
This isn’t just for kids—adults need recess, too! Prolonged sitting in your home office has been linked to negative health effects that are similar to those of not exercising. Even among people who do exercise, those who spend more time sitting tend to have more health problems than those who are more active during the day.
Taking short breaks at work also improves attention and productivity. In fact, many time management and productivity techniques include periods of focused work separated by breaks. Since most work is done sitting at a desk or in front of a computer, these breaks can be used to get up and move. Together with dedicating time every day for exercise, these activity breaks can contribute to meeting physical activity recommendations and can add up to serious health benefits.