Over the past several months I have written about personal health and fitness while giving the best shot at following my own suggestions.
With schools coming to a screeching halt and summer kicking off, a new type of challenge has emerged – what do we do with the kids?
Several of my friends and parents have admitted that the potential for their kids to engage in mindless and sedentary activities just went up ten-fold. Whether you are a working parent or not, getting kids to engage in a physical activity that is good for them is tough during regular normalcy leave alone during the pandemic when most scheduled sports are closed.
It’s a challenge for most of us to drive change in our own behavior leave alone that of the kids. Friends and parents who have somewhat managed to beat the boredom successfully, have taught me that in order to impact behavior whether it is outdoor activities or mentally engaging options, you just have to lead with example, especially now. This much needed push to change behavior for the entire family has been a blessing in disguise for many of us.
My self-made indoor climbing wall in our basement. When the lockdown hit, I knew I had to have some form of alternatives and so I got some plywood and T-nuts for this very basic set up of a climbing wall made under the stairs of our basement. The hammocks in the back are just drilled into eyelets.
From my post on “Inside the mind of an outside sportsperson", I refer to health and fitness as gifts worth treasuring. Perhaps this is a reminder to take whatever time we can set aside between juggling work, homeschooling and everything else to stay fit and stay healthy as it is fuels how good we can get at everything else. As we well know, the demands on parents for everything else (job, home, family) haven't necessarily ceased.
Scientific American claims that scientists continue to show that everything from the “runner’s high” to the “yogi’s tranquility” can have profound effects on your brain. Exercise is the only way blood get’s access to the human brain. This is no different for children.
While socially structured sports have an added benefit of releasing endorphins and de-stressors in kids - in particular, who are exposed to a relatively stressful and competitive environment in the current days. In the absence of these there’s an opportunity to get outside and be sporty along with our human offspring.
The September 2018 edition of Outside Magazine’s article on “Rewilding the American Child” voices out “Overscheduled, addicted to screen, It's Time to Set Our Kids Free”. This excellent article came with some great ideas and breath-taking images. I was particuarly drawn to an excerpt on a Northern California outdoor wilderness program called Vilda that took teenagers into a camping regime, somewhat of a coming-of-age curriculum using camping and leadership skills. This led me to wonder - "Why is it that we have to send our kids for a structured experience to get an experience?" "Should this not be baked into their daily lives to an extent?" At least that is how it was for many of us growing up. Unfortunately, in today’s world parents compete against various barriers to adopting healthy behaviors. From online gaming to highly processed food, the lack of options available to us as adults itself is a barrier leave alone figuring out how to address a healthy lifestyle for our children.
A recent article by National Geographic documents that the brain creates new neurons all through adulthood in the hippocampus. The precursors of neurons (bright blue area) travel to the olfactory bulb, or scent-processing center (purple), to form sensory neurons.
Things like stress slow neurogenesis, whereas novelty (for example, traveling to a new place) and exercise boost it. Aerobic options are known to enhance memory – biking, running or swimming. Memories created during the lockdown are likely to have an impact. Taken from my post on “Why the brain needs exercise”, a study in Stockholm1 uncovered that exercise draws oxygen and blood flow into an area of the brain that is typically suppressed with low cell growth during depression.
The brain actually is wired to promote “forgetting”, and that’s a good thing. Important new memories grow stronger through neuronal changes and emotional resonance, while unimportant ones are weakened.
It is okay for the kids to be bored – It is actually a good thing as they learn to be creative and think beyond what is carefully curated and presented to them. Some friends and parents have shared that taking away all electronics and letting them “figure it out” has also worked.
Diversify the experience …
NatGeo and Outside-online have various resources to help diversify their learning. It isn’t necessarily all about going outside and shaking a leg. Depending on age there are resources out there that are packed with knowledge around latest developments and research on nature that kids might want to know. Show like “Nature Boom Time” on NatGeo@home that put a positive spin on Botany! My kids are actually hooked as they like watching 20 some years old tweens talk about botany! Why didn’t we think of this before? Kudos to Charlie Engleman, the filmmaker biologist who won a 50,000 grant to start this kid video docuseries in 2014 winning against 700 hopefuls.
Podcasts for those lazy evenings: What I like about the list below, is that they subscribe to my model of quizzes and Q&As along the epoxides of these podcasts – kids, like us, need engaging activities and options. Just a lecture or a talk won’t do.
I spend my free time noodling with concepts of health and fitness and I am passionate about how this impacts our children.
Friends and parents that I know of, have been doing a fantastic and creative job with in finding strategic ways to make this a learning opportunity for their children. I have certainly learnt a lot over the past weeks to months. Every child is different, and every family or individual is unique but what is undeniably consistent is that children learn from their ecosystem. We cannot expect them to not be sedentary and be healthy if it isn’t necessarily what they observe on a daily basis and what is daily has become closer to home now. Whether it is eating habits, a healthy mindset or a focus on fitness and safety, now more than ever before the kids are watching and it offers us an opportunity to expose them to a healthy and fit lifestyle