Teachers and students spend the school day exercising their minds, but it can be easy to forget how important it is to move and strengthen our bodies as well. Even creating time for a short walk each day can lead to a range of lifelong health benefits, improve learning and comprehension, and enhance your quality of life.
According to America Walks, only about 24% of adults and 50% of youth get a sufficient amount of physical activity each week. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition suggest at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day for youth and a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate/vigorous physical activity per week for adults.
In this article, we’ll lay out some of the most important mental, physical, and emotional benefits gained from a daily walk, as well as tips for implementing walking and physical activity into your classroom.
Decreased Risk of Chronic Health Conditions
Various studies have shown that a daily walking practice can lead to a decreased risk of chronic conditions prevalent in the United States, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure (America Walks, n.d.). Walking also helps strengthen the immune system, improve bone density and joint health, and increase flexibility and muscle strength. Paired with a healthy diet, walking can help individuals maintain a healthy weight, leading to further prevention (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
With this in mind, a daily walk can be one of the most effective and cost-friendly preventive medicines available to us when it comes to both chronic health conditions and seasonal/common illnesses.
Less Anxiety, Depression, and Stress
Walking is an excellent medicine for our mental health just as much as our physical health. In fact, studies have shown conclusive evidence that walking and spending time outdoors can lead to lower rates of depression, anxiety, and stress, in addition to promoting self-esteem, happiness, and an improved sense of wellbeing (America Walks, n.d.; Mayo Clinic, 2021).
Improved Sleep, Energy, and Concentration
The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study that demonstrated a strong correlation between students participating in recess and more attentive and productive behavior within the classroom (Murray et al., 2013). This means that adding walking-based activities into your classroom doesn’t take away from student learning — it enhances it!
Regular walking can also help prevent insomnia while improving the quality and length of sleep, leading to increased energy and focus (America Walks, n.d.).
Increased Environmental Health
Looking for more opportunities to walk can lead to less driving. Reducing our time in the car isn’t only great for our health and wallet, but for the health of our planet by decreasing our carbon footprint. Using walking as a mode of transportation can help improve ambient air quality while reducing noise pollution, leading to a cleaner Earth for us all (America Walks, n.d.).
Few Barriers to Entry
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of walking is that it’s accessible (America Walks, n.d.). Most individuals have the ability to enjoy at least a short walk every day – and a short walk is better than no walk at all! Due to virtually no need for preparation, special clothing, or equipment, it’s easy to find time to squeeze in short or long walks throughout the day – whether it’s a few laps around the building or a hike through the woods.
10 Ways to Implement More Movement Into Your Classroom
Incorporating walking and other forms of physical activity into your school day is a great way to keep you and your students engaged, healthy, and active.A recent EdWeek article stated:
“Research has shown that movement during the school day benefits academic performance and improves behavior. In the same context, incorporating movement into your lessons keeps the students engaged and excited about learning. Movement in lessons will also help your students to retain the content more” (Ferlazzo, 2020).
It’s critical to incorporate more movement into your classroom. Here are ten ideas to help get you started.
- Bring students on a walk around the school or block while discussing new concepts learned in the classroom.
- Create a scavenger hunt based on the day’s lesson.
- Challenge students to create nature-based art and walk around outside to find materials.
- Start or end the day with a walk to give students a chance to unwind.
- Create a walking challenge with a collective reward for reaching the class goal.
- Guide students on a walk through nature for inspiration before creative writing exercises.
- Bring young students on a short walk while singing songs.
- Give students a letter of the alphabet and challenge them to find something outside that begins with that letter.
- Have students estimate or count their steps during a walk to reinforce math concepts.
- Develop and lead a walking club for students or your fellow teachers to participate in before school, after school, or during lunch periods.
No matter where, when, or for how long, walking is an accessible and healthy activity that can have long-term effects on mood, wellbeing, learning, and more. Creating time for a daily walk on your own or with your students is the perfect way to reset your mind and support your long-term health.
America Walks. (n.d.). Health Benefits of Walking. Americawalks.org. https://1ygak12o7sao44b0l64btzea-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/AW-Health-Benefits-of-Walking-5_28_edit-1.pdf
Department of Health & Human Services. (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. Health.gov. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
Ferlazzo, Larry. (2020). Eight Ways to Use Movement in Teaching & Learning. EdWeek.org. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/opinion-eight-ways-to-use-movement-in-teaching-learning/2020/07.
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/walking/art-20046261
Murray, Robert (M.D.), et al. (2013). The Crucial Role of Recess in School. Pediatrics, 131(1), 183-188. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-2993