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What Physical Activity Look Like for Kids in the COVID-19 Era

Prior to the pandemic, fewer than one in four children participated in the daily physical-activity requirements recommended by federal and state authorities. School closures and disruptions due to COVID-19 will only increase the risk of physical inactivity among youth.

Without school sports, intramurals, regular P.E. classes, or even recess — where many of us have some of our best memories of fun schoolyard games — the isolated nature of online learning risks contributing to a sedentary existence for kids that’s at odds with good health, and with a multi-decade-long fight against childhood obesity. In the coming months, we don’t just have to keep kids learning. We have to keep them moving.

It’s vital to our kids’ health, well-being and their ability to learn.

In fact, in one of our first published reports and summits at GENYOUth, the nonprofit organization I lead that’s dedicated to creating healthier school communities, we focused a lot on what we call “The Learning Connection.” It’s the link between nutrition, physical activity and cognition, or a child’s ability to learn. In that report, we featured an illustrative graphic of a child’s brain, specifically the hippocampus, which is associated with learning and emotions. Essentially, the hippocampus “lights up” when active for a minimum of 20 minutes daily. Physical activity is to our brain like turning on the light switch in a dark room. I often say to my team, and to many CEOs I advise, that when I’m out on my daily six-mile run, my best ideas come to life because my brain is lit up.

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