For kids the recommended dose of exercise a day is 3-4 hours. I don’t know very many kids these days, especially the patients I see that have developmental issues that actually get 3-4 hours of exercise a day. Most of them get gym at school 2-3x a week or maybe recess, and that’s it. And even during recess, while some kids are active and moving around, some kids are not. Making sure your kids are not sitting in front of a screen or sitting at home and that they are out moving and using their body is extremely important.
From a brain perspective when a kid exercises, they receive BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which is almost like Miracle Grow for the brain. It allows the neurons in your brain to connect, grow, and get larger. This is why exercise and movement are so important. Another reason is when you exercise and move around you use your muscles, core, balance centers, and eye tracking centers. All of these are needed for proper brain development and growth.
This begins to become important because when we work on developmental exercise with them, the core needs to be nice and strong to activate an area of the brain called the cerebellum. Your cerebellum coordinates eye tracking skills, cognitive centers, attentional networks, and behavioral regulation centers. It has more neurons than the rest of your brain combined because it coordinates everything.
The best way to grow your cerebellum is through movement. This is something a huge majority of kids are lacking. The biggest key in helping kids with development issues or behavioral issues is getting them to move as much as humanly possible. On weekends make sure you are going for long walks, going to the park and playing, going swimming or going to splash pads, and getting them involved in sports. Even though lots of these kids are not athletic, doing sports will help them strengthen their cores and stability to be able to play sports well.
Many kids make friends through sports. The social aspect to sports can be just as important as the activity itself. If a kid makes friends in the sport they play, they will typically continue to grow in the sport and in their social life. And even if sports are a hurdle in the beginning, like the sport is hard, teaching a child to not give up and keep working hard is a valuable life lesson. If you let a kid give up, you are teaching them that it’s okay to quit things in the future. This is a skill that is important for life but also getting them to stay consistent with something that can help with their development in the long run is worth it.
Exercise also increases blood flow throughout the body and especially into your brain. Increasing blood flow and getting the heart rate up helps get oxygen to the parts of your brain that need it the most. Using gross muscles activates the right side of your brain, these muscles get activated when you are playing and moving. The right side of your brain is where a lot of attential aspects are, where your behavioral regulations are, where your motor planning is, and where your social interaction is.
Kids that have low muscle tone or muscle weakness don’t have a good balance center, they don’t have good gross motor or fine motor skills which is the majority of kids that have learning disabilities. Exercise is just one way to activate the right side of the brain consistently throughout the day. Getting kids active is important for brain development, health, and motor functions.