Increase Movement at Home This Winter
Sitting for long periods of time elevates risk for premature death. Even for individuals who do their daily winter workouts and meet physical activity recommendations, movement breaks throughout the day are vital for physical health and cognitive function.
“For children, movement breaks are extremely important to enhance their ability to focus and stay on task, especially during this time of e-learning. For adults, movement breaks help to increase blood flow to muscles and reduce stiffness in joints,” states Joy Baganz, OTR/L, MOT, lead occupational therapist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
If you are working from home and/or your child is doing remote learning this winter, build periodic movement breaks into your day with these tips from Baganz.
- Set a reminder. From blocking off time on your calendar to adding an alarm on your phone, schedule your daily breaks to make it easier to incorporate movement into your day. “Establishing a routine to stretch and move will support your health in the long run,” advises Baganz. “It doesn't have to be a long break.” A 10 to 15-minute break can make a big difference for your health and mental function.
- Walk. Studies show that walking can actually improve learning and memory. Whether you are walking to the kitchen to get yourself a glass of water or walking down the stairs to grab your mail, get your steps in whenever you can. If you feel safe, comfortable and bundled up, walk to get your morning coffee, to the grocery store or around the block.
- Get some fresh air. Evidence suggests a significant correlation between optimal well-being and more exposure to natural environments. Bundle up and take your movement break outdoors. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can also do some yoga or stretching nearby open windows or indoor plants.
- Exercise and stretch to de-stress. If it’s too cold outside, you can still be active indoors, whether spring cleaning, participating in a virtual workout class or stretching between work calls. Check out the infographic below for stretches for your hands, arms and shoulders to combat stress that can accompany long periods of inactivity. No equipment is needed.
For Your Child
- Use visual or tangible incentives. Use visual reminders to encourage your child to move periodically throughout the day. This can include rewarding movement breaks by placing stickers on a goal chart or adding a new colorful pen to a jar for your child’s remote learning space.
- Make it a game. If you make movement fun, your child is more likely to join in. Play a quick game of Simon Says, use mobile app activity games, or play a favorite song and hold a five-minute dance party. Go back to the basics by incorporating jumping jacks, running in place, star jumps, arm circles, jump rope or yoga stretches. If you want to venture outdoors, try some snow activities.
- Consider movement while sitting. “If your child is craving movement during e-learning, incorporate movement while sitting and online,“ says Baganz. Allow your child to sit on a moving object like an exercise ball, air cushion or rocking chair to enhance focus and concentration when they need to be seated. Fidget toys, including stress balls, are also helpful tools to keep children tuned in.
- Supply pen and paper. New research suggests that children who hand-write digest more information and recall concepts better than children who use keyboards for digital learning. In addition to tablets, provide tools for writing and drawing.
For You Both
- Take a daily recess together. Sync your breaks with your child’s breaks to reap the benefits of moving together and holding each other accountable. Take the opportunity to spend quality time with your child or the entire family if possible by enjoying a 10-minute recess before sharing a snack or a meal together.
Set Your Goals
Adults should take a movement break every one to two hours. Children should take a movement break every 20 to 30 minutes. Have fun and be creative about meeting these recommendations — with and without your child.