Top 10 sports for kids to play Number 7 - Walking
Walking may not sound like a sport but has been certified as one of the best physical activities that kids can be encouraged to perform. Many Western countries reward the kids if they walk their way to school. Sydney schools have lots of ‘Walking Bus’ programs that provide a safe group environment for kids to have fun heading to school using ‘Shanks Pony’ in Cockney slang. Supervision by a parent on a rotating roster, grandparent who likes the exercise creates an experience filled with fresh air, local knowledge and street sensibility. Engagement with neighbours, peers, and different aged students on the way to school benefits students and those they engage with by breaking down barriers and local eccentricities. Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is the impact of aerobic exercise on readying young brains for learning on arrival in class. Extensively studied and promoted from the Naperville High School in the US, the benefits to young brains are nothing short of miraculous. As little as 20 minutes of walking shows up in the classroom with better focus, engagement, memory, and recall. Balanced moods ensure students interact in a more positive manner during their academic time. For teachers, parents, and of course students alike, better test scores are the icing on the cake. Who wouldn’t walk to school if it meant better academic outcomes?
Benefits of Walking
Heading out for walks with your child increases family bonding. Many parents walk with some or all of their children, often using 1:1 time to talk about situations or incidents that affect their brood. Walking has been shown to provide a ‘clear head’ where decision and creativity seem to flow. This is not surprising, with our eyes, ears, and noses bringing all sorts of sounds and smells. Research in business settings shows that executives who conduct walking meetings or take breaks walking are more creative and decisive. No doubt you can relate to finding the answer to the issue you were facing when you just left your desk and worries behind and took a walk. It is better if you can do your walking in nature, but not essential. Why not get your children into this great habit as young as possible?
Walking in open spaces helps to bond with the environment and physically walking helps in strengthening legs, controlling weight, and balancing the body. Researchers found that walking in natural surroundings provided stress reduction. Gregory Bratman from Stanford University found that nature walkers showed cognitive benefits including an increase in working memory performance, “decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect.” Taking his research further, Bratman also found that the greater the biodiversity in the walkers’ surroundings, the larger the improvement in mental wellbeing. Taking the dog along produces more serotonin – one of the ‘I feel good’ hormones when walking than walking alone or without the dog. Dogs produce serotonin in response to exercise, so patting a dog, laughing at your four-legged family member is as good for the dog as it is for the child. In Scandinavian countries, the value of spending time outdoors is encapsulated in the word “friluftsliv”, which translates to “open-air life.” In Finland, teachers have competitive salaries, independence in their curriculum design, shorter school hours, and plenty of time for their students to play outdoors. The success of their system, which blends work and outdoor play, has students repeatedly ranking near the top in academic achievement scores on a global scale. Playing outside is not merely an opportunity to rest and decompress but instead an important part of the learning process. As author Erik Shonstrom points out, “The central tenet of friluftsliv is the importance of entering into nature in an uncomplicated way. No Matterhorn ascent required - we’re simply talking about kids playing in the woods, parks, and fields.” Nature and walking expand curiosity. ‘Ordinary’ things are noticed, watched, and then actively sought out by exploring children. Children who are outdoors often incorporate this world and experiences into their imagination. You can see it ‘appear’ in drawings, make-believe games, and the stories they tell. Imagination is a for-runner to creativity, especially in solving problems. _____________________________________________________________________________________ The Greatest Journey Begins with a Single Step Lao Tse _____________________________________________________________________________________ For many Australian’s walking forms a crucial part of their overseas travels in their late teens. World renown for being found in strange, intrepid places, the ‘Backpacking World Trip’ is a given at the conclusion of year 12. I’ve met Aussies on their walks on all 7 continents, from Antarctica to the Arctic wilderness of northern Canada, from the tropics of Asia and middle America to the culture of Europe, India, Africa, or Egypt. Without the cash for 5* touring, they walk. Walks into the desert, the mountains, and the jungles of our planet. Some walk into jobs, opportunities for community service, or find a new passion. The path there begins with a single step. Followed by another and you are walking to your next opportunity. Ready? Set! Walk!
Ryan Williamson is a gymnastics and movement expert. His personal experience of slipping through education's cracks gives him an unmatched passion to ensure his 3 young children learn in using methods that suit them. He has developed gymnastics based programs to improve academic test scores, numeracy, literacy and creative thinking. Read Ryan's story - above *My Story*