Originally published April 27, 2020 by KMTR16 Eugene, Oregon.

By Kelli Warner

T.J. Kelley enjoys daily interaction with his students at Hamlin Middle School in Springfield. As a P.E. teacher, he gets to introduce kids to a variety of activities, sports and other fun ways to be active. But with school buildings closed and students attending classes online, daily P.E. classes are on hold.

“Not being able to see my students every day has been so hard; it’s really tough,” he says.

T.J. and other P.E. teachers in the district have created daily workouts that students can access and do on their own at home. He says getting daily physical activity is one of the best things that families can do with their kids to benefit everyone.

“It doesn’t matter of its elementary, middle or high school, kids are going to benefit from the opportunity to just move and get the energy out, get the blood flowing, and the endorphins firing. Everything works so much better in the brain when you have that physical activity,” T.J. says.

How does exercise affect schoolwork?

Physical activity is an important part of the school day because it helps kids mentally focus and concentrate, which is even more important with families social distancing and kids doing all of their classwork online.

“We’re doing a lot of bike rides, we play tag, we take the dog on walks, we jump on the trampoline. You have to get creative,” says Dr. Ross Newman with Eugene Pediatric Associates, who is a father of four.

Dr. Newman is also an avid runner. Two years ago, he started a community program called Runs with Ross, where families can be active together. Like most group activities, Runs with Ross is temporarily suspended under the current social distancing protocols, but Dr. Newman says it’s still important for families to find ways to be active each day because it’s a healthy outlet to reduce stress, ease anxiety and improve mood.

“We need to be maintaining routines during this quarantine because kids and adults function well with routines. And those routines are not just important for going to bed and waking up, but also for our day-to-day activities, including mealtimes, breaktimes and physical activity.”

When it comes to being active, the key is finding activities you and your kids enjoy doing together. There are a lot of free apps and online resources that can offer ideas.

Try these suggestions:

  • Go outside for a walk, jog or bike ride
  • Do 30 minutes of family fitness (jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups)
  • Dance to a favorite playlist
  • Play hopscotch or jump rope

Or how about a Pokémon scavenger hunt? Thephysicaleducator.com offers a downloadable set of 30 Pokémon Fitness Cards. Parents print them out, cut them up and hide them around the house. As kids “catch” the Pokémon, they must perform the exercise listed on each card.

Get active outdoors

Springtime sunshine offers additional benefits for kids and adults. Outdoor exercise can help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. And physical movement produces endorphins, another feel-good hormone that boosts your mood. A small dose of sunshine also provides much-needed vitamin D.

“Vitamin D has really profound impacts, not only on our bone health and our kidney health but also on our brain health,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “Get outside every day, spend some joyful moments in the sunshine, and enjoy getting your bodies moving because getting your heart rate up is important for all of us.”

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    Healthy Kids: Benefits of physical activity during distance learning
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    Healthy Kids: Benefits of physical activity during distance learning
    Teacher creates daily workouts that students and families can do together during online learning.
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    KMTR 16 Eugene
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