Get Up. Get Moving:: Why Physical Activity is More Important than Ever

With the re-opening of in-person classes at my taekwondo school amid the pandemic this fall, I’m seeing some alarming trends. So alarming, that in my 10 years of owning the school and the additional 14 years of being in martial arts, I’m doing a first – imploring parents, educators, anyone willing to listen – that change needs to be made. Right now. Get up, and Get. Your. Kids. Moving.

Science Shows the Correlation Between Movement and Brain Function

Get Up. Get Moving:: Why Physical Activity is More Important than EverYears of studies show the correlation between physical activity and cognitive development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an 84-page paper after reviewing 43 published articles and found 251 connections between physical activity and academic performance. This paper summarized that “Research has shown that physical movement can affect the brain’s physiology”.  That research, along with hundreds more, has irrefutably shown that physical activity grows nerve cells in the brain. The fancy term for this is neuroplasticity. And a brain that is neuroplastic is a happy brain – so not only does physical activity make your brain grow, it also helps with self-control and focus.

With this pandemic, though, kids {and adults, too}, are moving less these days. A LOT less. 

Get Up. Get Moving:: Why Physical Activity is More Important than Ever

Regular in-person school activities such as moving around the classroom, walking from classroom to specials and lunch are diminished. Kids who are in online school sit in front of their screens for hours on end. Online P.E. classes are now conducted with little to no physical activity at all. And many kids are no longer participating in extracurricular activities. All of this lack of movement is doing a number on kids’ brains.

That translates to children being unable to process, plan, and even thoughtfully think their way through material. I’m seeing children unable to determine directional movement such as left, right, forward, backward. I’m seeing that those “ah-ha” moments of “getting it” are taking four times as long – or not happening at all – as pre-Pandemic times. This is not just happening in students new to my classes. It’s happening to students who have been with me for 8 and 9 years. I’ll have a class of black belts, after being instructed to do a drill, stare at me blankly…almost like they’re not even there. It’s truly alarming.

What’s most concerning to me, though, is that I’m also seeing more emotional issues including depression and anxiety in my students than ever before. Once happy-go-lucky students are “flat”. There’s no spark in their eyes. There’s no inflection in their voices. They’re like a ghost of their former selves. Easy-going kids break down at the slightest mistake. The Washington Post’s podcast, Post Reports, asked listeners to send recordings documenting their experiences with online learning. The same theme was repeated over and over in the podcast: the isolation of online learning is having a massive emotional toll on kids.

How To Get Moving

I get it. We’re in some challenging times, y’all. And you’re exhausted. I am, too. But there are some easy things you can do to get your child {and you} moving. Studies have shown that 60-minutes of daily activity is best – but that’s pre-pandemic. And right now, any movement is better than none. Here are a few ideas you can use to get up and get your kids moving or use as a starting point to come up with your own ideas::

  1. At-home obstacle course {getting your kids to actually help make one will get them to buy in even more}.
  2. Life-size games like checkers or chess {think Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone}.
  3. Dance parties
  4. Old-School playground activities like hopscotch, Mother May I, Follow the Leader, Simon Says, Hide and Seek, Duck Duck Goose, Jumping Rope, Red Light/Green Light {we add all kinds of light colors and vary the movements kids need to do – from flying like reindeer to twirling like ballerinas, which the boys think is uh-maze-ing, btw}
  5. FitDeck Excercise Playing Cards
  6. Throw Throw Burrito Outdoor Edition
  7. Exercise Dice {you can also find these at Five Below sometimes}
  8. Extra-curricular IN PERSON activities such as martial arts, dance, gymnastics, etc. {As an extracurricular activity center, I can attest to how we’re going above and beyond to make sure our facility is as clean and as safe as possible through multiple procedures as well as adjusting curriculum to maintain CDC social distancing guidelines. Finally, don’t think that basic activities such as walking and exercise breaks have to be, well, basic. Make them fun by doing things like::
    •  Playing “I spy” 
    • Challenges such as let’s get in 1,000 steps today {kids LOVE activity trackers, FWIW}
    • Counting by twos, threes, fours, etc. or by pretty much anything {my students’ love to count by food groups like ice cream flavors}
    • Vary steps/activities by direction {backward/forward/diagonal} or by side {left/right}

Even if it’s just five minutes a day – right now, those five minutes can have a huge impact on your kids’ cognitive and emotional development. So now – Get Up. And Get Moving.

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Carol grew up and stayed in Ohio for the first 25 years of her life - and then moved 6 times around the country and to Brazil between 1996-2000. She settled in Indiana with her kids, Jonathan {1993} and Ellie {1995}, and her then-husband for 9 years before finally making her way to the great state of Texas in 2009. Within a year of moving, she was saying “y’all” and “bless your heart” like the true Texan she was meant to be. Carol held a variety of part-time jobs while her children were in elementary and middle school. These jobs, from a kindergarten teacher’s aide to a substitute teacher to a Gymboree Play instructor, always centered around working with children. She did the whole volunteer thing throughout her kids’ elementary school days from class parent to Girl Scout troop leader and council volunteer. After earning her 1st degree blackbelt, became a nationally-certified instructor in taekwondo, and volunteer taught taekwondo at her instructor’s school in Fishers, Indiana. After moving to Katy, she opened her own taekwondo school in 2010 so that she and her daughter could continue to do what they loved and continue to be a part of their national association of schools. Carol found her true calling of teaching her students strength, focus, and confidence at her taekwondo school. Carol’s children are both grown and on their own now. {Mostly. They do pay their own bills, but they still come to her for advice}. Her daughter, Ellie, married her high school sweetheart in 2019. She met her now-husband, Scott, through {yeah, those things CAN work!}. They live in Richmond with their dog and 2 cats and enjoy spending their down time going to the movies and supporting all the local restaurants they can.


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