Teachers are often pleading with kids to sit down and be quiet so they can effectively lecture to the class, but how does all that sitting affect kids? Many adults have tried to combat the ill effects of sitting too long by buying standing desks or taking short walking breaks, but kids don’t usually have that luxury in the classroom.
Here are seven reasons that sitting all day may be harming kids’ health and impeding their ability to learn.
Lack of movement throws off the vestibular system
The vestibular system supports eye muscle control, spatial awareness, and organizes the brain to support learning and emotional regulation. “Most children develop a strong vestibular sense simply through engaging in everyday play activities that allow for exploration and movement,” according to The Inspired Treehouse, an occupational and physical therapists site. If students are denied the opportunity for physical activity and must sit for too long each day, they may begin to lack spatial awareness and suffer from disorganized brains that can’t focus well.
Sitting too long encourages rising obesity levels
Studies show that children who have lower rates of obesity are frequently active for an hour a day. Obesity comes with a variety of health concerns, and there are a growing number of children now struggling with it. Of course, enrolling kids in sports activities, such as joining the soccer team, swimming, martial arts, or even simply walking, are effective at preventing obesity—but sitting too long can contribute to this widespread health problem. And sitting all day as kids may lead to unhealthy habits as adults which may also contribute to obesity.
Sitting too long may affect academic performance
One of the benefits of regular physical activity in adults is improved concentration as well as mental clarity. In children, concentration and focus play key roles in academic performance. Studies have found that children who did aerobic activity for 30 minutes during the day academically outperformed children who didn’t. As some schools must restrict or remove recess time, many students are not given the opportunity to get such activity during the school day.
Physical activity decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are on the rise in children and teens, so it’s important to find ways to address this concerning trend. Experts maintain that exercise decreases depression and anxiety and helps to ease the symptoms in kids. Physical activity releases endorphins, and it helps kids take their minds off what is troubling them. Exercise provides a helpful coping mechanism. When students are less anxious and depressed, they are more likely to engage with others and pick up healthy habits, which will further ease their depression. Rather than help with these mental health issues, being made to sit all day may only exacerbate the problem by restricting such needed physical activity.
Exercise creates new brain cells
Many studies have concluded that exercise has a variety of benefits to the brain, all of which are important for students who are trying to learn for many hours per day. When kids move around and are not simply sitting, they benefit from increased blood flow to the brain. And, according to a study by the University of Illinois‘ Department of Psychology, exercise can actually change the shape and function of kids’ brains. “The findings suggest that increased childhood aerobic fitness is associated with greater dorsal striatal volumes and that this is related to enhanced cognitive control,” the authors conclude. “Because children are becoming increasingly overweight, unhealthy, and unfit, understanding the neurocognitive benefits of an active lifestyle during childhood has important public health and educational implications.”
Kids may lose focus if forced to sit too long
Many parents are told their kids tend to fidget and are distracted in class. Some are diagnosed with ADHD for these issues, but many are simply tired of sitting. Experts say that fidgeting is often simply a symptom of kids needing more opportunities for movement during the day. If kids are feeling frustrated that they can’t get up and move around, they’re more likely to fidget and lose focus in class, which will ultimately affect their academic achievement.
Regular exercise creates other healthy habits
Breaking a bad habit can be a difficult and, sometimes, lengthy process. However, children who are not sedentary and exercise regularly are more inclined to start and keep healthy habits. This means they are more likely to bathe regularly, have good hygiene, and are more likely to eat more nutritious food. Once these habits are ingrained, they are more likely to carry them into adulthood. If they become conditioned to sitting for the bulk of the day, both in class and at home on social media, they may unfortunately pick up the bad habit of being sedentary all day.
In short, sitting all day in the classroom, and then sitting at home doing homework or using their phones may be endangering the health of children. Be sure your kids are getting enough exercise and are able to move around to some extent during the day. If you think your child may learn better and benefit from moving more during the day, you may want to look into bringing school home. Learning from home offers the opportunity for a more flexible learning environment where kids can take frequent activity breaks or even use a standing desk if needed. Visit K12.com to find a virtual school in your state and discover the benefits of online learning.