Your health: Regular brain breaks will help activate your child’s control panel | SierraSun.com

Your health: Regular brain breaks will help activate your child’s control panel

Jill Whisler
Special to the Sun-Bonanza

Brain breaks increase student focus and decrease stress.

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — The vestibular system is the sensory system that processes and controls movement. This "control panel" that helps kids understand balance, posture, a sense of upright positioning and alertness in response to movement is located in the inner ear.

Guess how this system is activated? By movement, of course!

Just like adults, kids start to lose focus and attention when their bodies have to remain still and quiet for extended periods of time.

How do adults stay alert when they have to sit and listen at a meeting or a conference for long periods of time? Initially, we are engaged, but as we sit still for a while, it's natural for our attention to start to fade.

In order to maintain focus, we may shift in our seats, cross and uncross our arms, cross our legs or ankles, stretch our backs or roll our necks.

Even these slight movements help trigger the vestibular system, giving us feedback about posture and alertness, helping us reenergize and refocus.

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Research shows that regularly incorporating short movement activities into the instructional day not only allows children to get their "wiggles" out, but also energizes them and increases their ability to focus on the next learning activity.

Using movement thoughtfully and purposefully provides a valuable opportunity to create powerful learning experiences. Taking regular Brain Breaks is B-FIT's theme for December!

Here are six critical reasons for adding more movement in the classroom or even at your desk:

1: Infusing movement into instruction allows the brain to stay connected for longer periods of time.

2: The brain is naturally stimulated through movement and this enhances the ability to learn. Using movement to teach content creates a very natural and efficient way to learn.

3: At varying levels, we are all social creatures and crave human engagement and attention. Interactive, cooperative experiences provide the brain with an optimal environment to flourish socially as well as intellectually.

4: Experiential movement is a productive way to create a positive, fun, and engaging environment that enhances the learning process.

5: Exposing the brain to hands-on learning experiences is critical to memory and retrieval of information. The brain prefers active, not passive, learning.

6: Movement creates increased brain connectivity, which enhances higher-level problem solving and critical thinking skills.

7: Finally, movement breaks release stress!

Brain breaks increase student focus, decrease stress and create opportunities for community building and fun.

Even if you exercise regularly, limit the amount of time you spend sitting, whether at a desk or in front of the TV.

Research suggests that all you need to do to break up prolonged sitting time is to take five-minute walks every couple of hours. Even just standing up for two to five minutes or pacing around the room may help.

And if you don't exercise regularly, these short bouts may help break the inertia of sedentariness and lead you to engage in longer, more strenuous activity.

Jill Whisler is a dietician with "Rethink Healthy," part of Nutrition Coalition, a service of Tahoe Forest Health System. Information for this article was gathered from berkeleywellness.com, a great resource for more information on your wellness.