Physical exercise for kids has been on the decline for the past 30 years in America. More specifically, walking has taken a massive hit for kids in high school. According to Val Carson from the University of Alberta, “After school to dinner, where traditionally kids would be outside playing…we’ve seen that decline over time and we think it’s really being replaced with screens where children are indoors on their screens versus being outdoors and being active.” Even I have seen this happening over the past 10 years, as when I was younger I would spend more time outside with friends and getting my steps in. However, now, assuming I don't have after-school sports, I go home, spend a few hours on homework, and then when I feel like “taking a break” I play some video games, sit down, or watch some Netflix before going to bed. The average high school student should be getting about an hour of vigorous exercise each day; this helps with brain development and memory consolidation and increases endorphins. With all of this combined, kids should be getting more exercise.
To find out how much kids have been walking, I decided to look into how much students would walk in between their classes. I measured this by taking five random schedules and walking each one of them during my free periods. I compiled how far it was from class to class, and I assumed that classes starting after lunch would start in the cafe. Now let's get into the data. The average steps that someone would take in between classes, assuming they were walking straight to the class, was 90 steps. The longest steps that someone would have to take were 160 steps, which went all the way from wellness to math, going up two flights of stairs. In large contrast, there was the shortest walk, which was from math to biology. Another interesting fact is that you travel up and down a lot of stairs. There is a 63% chance of hitting one flight of stairs before your next class.
Now that you understand how much kids walk around, I can get into why that’s important for people. Firstly, physical activity is a large boost to brain development and activity; according to the Healthcare Administration and Management, “Movement supplies brain cells with oxygen,” which “promotes the production of new brain cells, and aids in creating new synapses.” Now you can see not only how important it is that people get movement during the sports they have after school, but also that getting around and doing things during the school day can be vastly beneficial to a student as well. An example of this is when you start to feel like your brain has shut down and you can’t think anymore, especially towards the end of the day, getting around and walking up and down the hallways or just jumping in place would get your brain cells moving and more oxygen to supply your brain. Mikko Anderson says, “Walking makes me feel better because I feel refreshed after a walk,” which is just another reason to get out there and clear your head. Another benefit for kids who exercise during the school day, according to Mound Spark Academy, is “that students learn better, behave better, and are socially more successful when they have physical activity and movement breaks throughout the school day.” Ezra Shilling Rabin backs this up with, “It gives me a nice endorphin boost, which makes me more talkative.” This endorphin boost is not only for Ezra as it's actually rooted in science. According to Elite Daily, “Just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise is more than enough to trigger the release of beta-endorphins, which are the chemicals that lower stress and anxiety, and increase feelings of well-being.” So if you want to have more success asking out the person you like or get into the college you have always dreamed of, walking is always a good place to start.
Understanding that the brain works better on exercise is great; however, to actually act on that understanding, here are a few easy ways you can get more steps out of your day by doing the little things. Firstly, you can just start by walking during your downtime rather than sitting on your phone. For example, in between classes you can walk around the school, maybe look at some art rather than just sitting on your computer or phone outside your next classroom. You would be surprised at how much that gets you going. Next, find a friend to hold you accountable for your new walking endeavors; not only can they help you get more steps in a day, but all your new walking will go by much faster when you have someone to talk to. There is also the option of studying for your next quiz while on the go. So go grab a buddy or your flashcards and start trodding. Next, make multiple trips. Say you are carrying something from one class to another, or from your car to a classroom; try going to and fro a few times. You will have less chance of dropping what you're carrying and less chance of hurting yourself. Now, this is not for everyone because it might end up taking a longer time, but it forces you to do more walking and get those steps in. The last bit of advice I can give you is to take longer trips. When you need to go to the bathroom, try using the one that is on the far side of the school to boost those steps. These are just some basic ideas to get you moving during the day, just a starting point for movement. Take what you have learned here and find some new creative ways to get going.
After all of this new information that I learned while writing this article and walking up and down the halls, I have learned to notice my walking more. For example, during my free period, I notice if I have been sitting down for too long; I realize I start to slow down and need more oxygen flowing throughout my body to get my brain working again to finish that English essay or math assignment. So the next time you are feeling low on energy or haven't moved all day, take a hike, or at least a brisk walk from the health room to the math room.