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Get Up and Get Moving!

The times, they’re changing, and it’s becoming even more difficult to keep our kids engaged, happy, and well, out of our hair. I know I’m not alone when I say that I have used my friends: television, computer, and tablet as a distraction for my children when I need 30 minutes of peace. 

As parents, we know it’s not always easy, but are kids being exposed to too much technology? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of 7 hours a day using media including television, computer, internet, video games, and cell phones. In an ever growing media driven world, it’s becoming even more important to make sure your child is getting active every day. 

So, how can you encourage your child to get active? Show them that being active is fun! Exercise as a family by going for a nightly walk, jog, or having a family soccer game in the back yard. You can also get your children involved in activities outside of the home like The Little Gym to help them appreciate a healthy and active lifestyle for years to come. Whether you’re running, jumping, or tumbling, get moving with your child to build the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits!
We all know that having a strong core muscles (the muscles of abdomen, back and pelvis) is crucial for our balance, stability, body control and keeping the right posture. However, we may have not been aware about the fact that core strength plays a huge role in children's ability to focus and pay attention. 

It can be really hard work to sit still behind the desk for a long period of time, even for us adults. I believe we all have been there. 

Core strength allows us to achieve this task. Our core muscles help us to keep our bodies in upright position for longer period of time so we are more likely to focus on the tasks in front of us (writing an essay, reading or  listening to the teacher). 

Nevertheless, there is never only one system working at one. It is the whole body and brain functioning in smooth coordination. As we mentioned in last week's post, the vestibular system and other systems help us through cognitive tasks and it all goes hand in hand the the core strength. 
So, how does it work?
Core strength keeps the body stable and in the upright position whilst the Vestibular system with coordination with other systems, such as the Reticular Activating System (RAS) prevents us from falling of the chair. 
The RAS signals the brain to matters that require immediate focus, shutting out everything else. It is something like the brain's early warning system preventing us from physical danger. 
The RAS shuts out everything else and the vestibular system along with the muscle skeleton system promotes the motor output - engaging the core muscles to maintain our bodies in the seated position or putting hands in front of us when trip over something.

The RAS helps the brain work through focused, cognitive tasks such as listening, reading, studying and problem solving. 
As surprising as it can be, children often fidget because they trying to concentrate. During complex thinking tasks like school work, the brain may begin to tire and lose focus. When that happens, the RAS activates the muscles to move (fidget) in order to wake up the thinking brain and bring it back to task. 

In summary, if we do not have a strong core, our muscles get tired very easily. That means we start to fidget and change positions which are more comfortable for us. When we move/ fidget the vestibular system and the RAS take over and that moment, we cannot fully focus on the certain task; therefore, by having strong core muscles we are able to sit still for a longer period of time and sitting down may not be as exhausting as it can be if we have a low muscle tone. 

Click on the link to see some fun core strengthening activities that you can do with your kids.

The most important elements of school readiness are the abilities to SIT STILL, PAY ATTENTION and STAY FOCUSED. 
Did you know that children need to move as much as possible, experience all planes of movement in order to be able to sit still and focus on what is in front of them? Our inner sense of balance (the vestibular system)  governs all three. 
The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and it detects motion and gravity. It coordinates with all of our senses- especially the eyes- to help us stay upright and balanced whether we are moving or not. Balance underpins everything we do and the only way to develop strong balance system is through movement. 
Developing and automating a strong sense of balance, orientation, motion and gravity is crucial for children's development and readiness for school. 
The Vestibular system controls 5 major aspects of everyday living: Posture, Balance, Alertness, Concentration and Stillness.
Of course, there is also the muscle-skeleton system that goes hand in hand with the inner ear to support our bodies in whatever position we are in. 
Children are busy, busy little people! Physical activity does so much more than provide children with an outlet for burning their endless supply of energy. Over the years, various studies on child development have been conducted to prove that physical activities for kids helps to increase confidence and self-esteem, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and also helps children perform better in a classroom setting and life in general. Healthy kids benefit emotionally, physically, and cognitively when they’re active and having a good time.

The key to encouraging children to get active is to make it fun! Adults might spend more time being active if we took this advice! When children are riding their bike, swimming in a pool, or getting active and playing fitness games at their local The Little Gym, they aren’t seeing it as a workout. They’re seeing the activity as an opportunity to play with their friends and have fun. Cardiovascular exercises, strength exercises, and stretching exercises together will help your child build a strong body and mind. Keep reading for more information about how you can incorporate workouts for kids into your family’s weekly routine.

1. Cardiovascular exercises

Biking, swimming, and running around a soccer field or basketball court are great for strengthening the heart and building endurance. The CDC recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercises 3 times a week. Fit this into your family’s schedule with a family soccer game, a Saturday morning bike ride, and a nice long Sunday swim! Even if finding spare time is tough, incorporate ‘sprints’ like racing to the fountain at the park or jumping rope in the yard.
2. Strength exercises

Swinging on the monkey bars at the local park, or fitness games like learning how to do a handstand at The Little Gym, not only strengthens muscles and increases bone density, it also can help with preventing future sports or non-sports related injuries. If you’re struggling with your own workout plan and making the time, invite your children to do pushups or sit ups with you!

3. Stretching exercises

Stretching is equally as important as strength and cardiovascular activities. Regular stretching helps to increase flexibility, helping children work on (or master) their splits, cartwheels, and reduces the risk of injury. Have fun with stretching by asking your child to stretch like an animal of their choice – like a cheetah stretching out after a long day running around the jungle!

Finding activities for kids and fitness games is easy! Trying these physical activities for kids can be a fun way to spend time together as a family! Healthy kids are happy kids. If you’re looking for some fun, physical activities for children 4 months through 12 years, check out The Little Gym! To find a The Little Gym location near you, click here.
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