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How regular exercise can improve concentration in kids

Have you ever been at a conference struggled to stay focussed throughout an entire presentation? What about a particularly long staff meeting that you would have preferred to have skipped?

We often expect things from children that we wouldn’t expect from ourselves as adults. More often than not, this is due to the curriculum that puts huge amounts of pressure on teachers and early learning educators to prioritise classroom learning over free play and movement.

Let’s go back to that conference – at the end of a long day of keynote speeches and hands-on presentations were you feeling tired, frazzled and maybe a little brain dead? Just like adults, children need regular exercise and movement to improve brain functions like focus and concentration.

Children are the most active group in the general population, and it is recommended that they fit in 2 hours of exercise a day! So why is movement and exercise such a small part of the curriculum?

Extensive research by scientist Charles Hillman and colleagues has visually demonstrated the activity in the brain with aerobic and high intensity cardiovascular exercise. The image below clearly illustrates that the chemical activity in the brain after exercise is much more active than after rest. Sitting for extended periods leaves students, children and adults fatigued and as a result we actually retain information better during and after exercise.

1. Regular breaks throughout day An effective way to boost concentration is to take regular exercise or movement breaks throughout the day. If you don’t want to disturb the flow of your lesson, you can do this after a bathroom break, meal break or nap. This will help reset their minds and get the oxygenated blood flowing. Exercise Tip: try 20 frog jumps at 5 different times throughout the day and encourage the children to count while jumping.

2. A lesson in movement There are several ways to incorporate movement into learning experiences, whether it is through role playing, story telling, counting or imitating animals there are several ways and opportunities to explore new concepts. Think about teaching concepts such as fast and slow, high and low and big and small. The brain retains information better when we are moving through concepts so this is ideal.

3. Stop, move & listen When the class has lost focus setting a challenge that requires concentration is always a nifty trick to get them back on track. Try balancing on one leg, standing and touching opposite knee to elbow or even reaching up to the sky and moving with the breath. These tasks require focus and concentration and are a great way to reset and get them focussing.

Another thing to consider, as said previously this doesn’t just apply for kids, why not get involved as well to give you that burst to finish off the day.

Kids Heart Pilates offers in-class as well as online pilates programs for children aged 18 months+. We aim to give all children an opportunity to lead a healthy life. Kids Heart Pilates is an evidence based interactive movement program targeting child development. We are impacting lives at a critical stage of development and setting children up with a wide variety of self care skills from the beginning of their lives. By reaching children at this age we will contribute to their future being the best it can be and ultimately contribute to global health for future generations.


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