Pedalling away the problems

I’ve dashed out on my bike. This charges both my limbs and my thought processes. Because it’s not only my legs that become flat and flaccid sitting under the laptop it’s also my mind! charleys photo wkend spring14 008

I only get half a mile down the lane and I have to stop, not from breathlessness – thankfully I’m more fit than that – but because the problems that were stuck under mind-flab when I was indoors come thick and fast. I have to dump bike down and whip out notebook or phone whichever I’ve remembered and make notes.

It happens like this so often.

I’m not surprised; increasing evidence illustrates how physical activity boosts mental activity and well-being.  It also increases mental productivity by stimulating the brain with blood flow. Which is why it’s so worrying that kids are kept in classrooms and in front of screens doing sedentary activities or chasing grades, with decreasing physical activity, turning to gaming to deactivate the stress, which actually can exacerbate it! Seems like a potential explosion of emotional and mental health issues to me. Never mind adding to obesity and poor heart health.

When we were home educating my two cherubs got whisked out regularly. It wasn’t always nice weather. It wasn’t always nicely received! There was often reluctance, sulking, sighing. (Some of that might have been from me)! But it always changed the moods, it charged minds and calmed emotions. Mine and the children’s.

Sometimes it was just a local walk. Sometimes a visit out with others. Sometimes going to the pool, the park or a bike ride. Occasional bribes were used – on myself too. (I like to think of them as rewards)! But I considered it an essential part of our learning routine, our education, and our overall physical and mental health. No education is complete, surely, without learning about ourselves.

And I also considered that it was essential to set that example. If my own well-being mattered to me they could see it was important and worth including in the way they lived their lives. It carries on now.

I know some parents are as reluctant to get moving and get outdoors as their kids are when the weather’s rubbish and the Xbox lures. Some parents lack the confidence to just get up and go outside, especially lacking confidence in exercise. But physical activity doesn’t have to mean gruelling practises in figure hugging Lycra which make you look gross and grunt for breath. Getting out for a walk right now, in whatever you’re wearing, counts just as much. And the beauty of it is; the more you do the more confidence it builds. In you. In the children. What better could you be giving them than that?

As parents we have to set an example. This influences kids far more than anything we could say. Demonstration is the most powerful way of teaching, inspiring and motivating youngsters. We have to live the way we want them to live. Making physical activity as normal a part of our daily living as putting our socks on will give them a way of building their mental and physical well-being for life. It shows how to look after yourself, how they can look after themselves, take responsibility and take charge of it. And is as important as teaching them maths english or science.

In fact it is science, as usually the walk is interrupted for observation of our fascinating world. You can certainly discuss it as you go along – even if you’re puffing. In fact, you’ll be doing more good if you’re puffing.

So, better get back to the pedalling!


4 thoughts on “Pedalling away the problems

  1. I’m shocked at how little most children get out to just play, at least once they reach school age. Even among homeschoolers, free play and time in nature is not a priority for most people. I keep reading so many articles about how valuable it is, but it seems like no one is really listening…
    And like you say, i have to make my kids go sometimes. I believe in giving them a lot of freedom but this is one area where I will overrule them. And they usually thank me for it later. I have to push myself to go outside too, but I know how much better it makes me feel.
    Great post!

    • Thank you Miriam, that’s a great comment. And an important point – we all have to push ourselves sometimes, but if the children see us doing it, and the advantages, they’re more likely to have the motivation to push themselves too and this overflows into all areas of life as there are always things we’d rather not do. Thank you very much for raising that point. x

  2. Yes I can understand this (Maria typing) as I tend to take or drag Bob out for a walk. I think we need to be stimulated by the sights and sounds about us, or simply to relax and focus on other things besides writing. I used to take the kids out side for a walk or game of football so I understand where you are coming from. As an athletics coach I encourage teachers to take their class out for a ten minute break if they are inattentive and tired.

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