Tearing your child away from the screen – whether it’s a TV, laptop, iPad or mobile device – can be a challenge. Let’s face it, modern technology means there are more distractions these days than ever before, and they collectively hamper efforts to keep ourselves, and our kids, fit and healthy. This is illustrated by national statistics, which show that more than one in five kids are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school. By the time they leave, it’s one in three.
Boosting health in mind, body and spirit
Of course, we can quantify “health” in a number of ways: it’s not just about peering down at the weighing-scales and being satisfied with the result. Good health encompasses mind, body and spirit, and as parents, one of our biggest responsibilities is to pass on habits that nurture an important, evolving organ. I’m talking about the brain.
Speaking of which, a major new study indicates that one type of exercise could have serious benefits for both fitness levels and brain health. Researchers at the University of Auckland found that High Intensity Interval Training – known as HIIT – boosted cognitive metrics such as learning and short-term memory in young subjects.
HIIT workouts are much shorter and more intense than regular training sessions. They can even be performed without costly exercise equipment: in a park, in the garage, even in a bedroom. In theory, it should be easier to persuade your son or daughter to give them a go.
Short, intense workouts improve kids’ brainpower
So what did the study show, exactly? In a nutshell, six weeks of HIIT boosted children’s brainpower. What’s more, researchers discovered that HIIT could be especially beneficial for kids who have weaker hearts or genetic conditions characterised by mental challenges.
Scientists studied 305 children between the ages of 7 and 13 in the randomised, placebo-controlled study, focusing on the kids’ ability to memorise and process information – two strong predictors of academic success. While one group performed HIIT workouts after completing the tasks, the other played video games. After a period of six weeks, both sets of kids tackled another round of mental tests – with the HIIT group doing much better than their peers.
We have long known that exercise is good for body and mind. As well as boosting your metabolic rate, it increases blood flow to the brain which in turn facilitates the delivery of both oxygen and nutrients. Past research proves that those who exercise learn faster, remember more and benefit from a greater volume of blood vessels in brain tissue. And now, thanks to the aforementioned study, we have more clarity on the best type of exercise.
HIIT workout ideas for kids
Clearly, there are many benefits associated with High Intensity Interval Training, but those related to brain health are certainly interesting from a parental point of view. Because they take less time, HIIT sessions are easier to fit into busy schedules and, as such, they’re easier to commit to. If they can help your child memorise facts, concentrate better and potentially excel at school, so much the better.
Getting kids off the screen is always a good move, but sometimes a screen can actually enable the workout. Step forward, the chart-topping High Intensity Interval Training app, which provides simple video tutorials with an easy-to-follow workout mode to challenge every ability. From Jumping Jacks and Squat Sprints to Burpees, the app will get your kid moving. Points can be earned for every completed workout, which should help to maintain motivation, and workouts can be performed anywhere. Getting your child into a gym might prove tricky, but getting them to launch an app and finish a ten-minute workout is way more achievable.
Only one way to find out!