A school in Philadelphia has replaced the chairs in one fifth grade class with yoga balls to help kids focus and learn!
The idea behind the switch is basically this: kids have a lot of energy. When they sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair, they’re able to be a little bit antsy but still concentrate on their schoolwork. Robbi Giuliano, the teacher who made the switch told the Washington Times, “I have more attentive children. I’m able to get a lot done with them because they’re sitting on yoga balls.”
Exercise and Learning
Ms. Giuliano’s yoga ball experiment wasn’t just a random wild idea that turned out to work. Many schools are incorporating exercise gear to help facilitate education, and there’s research showing that physical activity improves learning. Dr. Majid Fotuhi, the Chairman Baltimore’s Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness has studied how exercise affects cognitive function, and he says that exercise helps kids’ brains in three ways:
1. Increases blood flow to the brain.
2. Increases the production of BDNF, a protein that improves brain growth and function.
3. Increases the brain tissue growth.
The exact amount of exercise kids need for better learning is still unclear, but Fotuhi recommends at least an hour a day for improved cognitive function.
Related Reading: 7 Ways to Jumpstart Your Workout
He also stresses that fitness is about more than just getting in that exercise: it’s also about getting good nutrition. He points to the childhood obesity epidemic, saying that exercise and good nutrition should be part of our children’s educations.
Health Benefits of a Yoga Ball
What strikes me most about this wonderful story is that these kids are getting benefits beyond increased concentration in class. Anyone who sits all day can benefit from ditching that chair for a yoga ball. Sitting is hard on our bodies, and the yoga ball helps counteract many of the problems that come from planting our butts in desk chairs all day long.
Related Reading: 10 Exercises for Better Posture
When you sit on a yoga ball, you’re active. Just keeping the ball under your body helps strengthen your core muscles and engages the muscles in your legs.
It’s also a lot easier to stretch on a yoga ball without being disruptive. Just slightly shifting your weight around can stretch your abs and lower back, so you can stay limber even if you’re stuck at a desk for eight hours.
When I started having lower back pain from pregnancy, I started using a yoga ball instead of a chair, and it’s made a huge difference. I mentioned how much I liked it on Facebook, and several people suggested that I needed an expensive, plastic apparatus to “turn” my yoga ball into a chair. After a little research, this seems to defeat the purpose of the yoga ball. Isn’t the whole idea to improve balance and strengthen your core while you’re working? Maybe I’m missing something about these things, but they seem like a waste of money and resources to me.
The kids in that Philadelphia classroom aren’t using any expensive gadgets – just big, bouncy, wobbly yoga balls – and from what their teacher is reporting, they’re definitely seeing the benefits!
Do you sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair or use one of those fancy yoga-ball-chair-gizmos? Do you feel like it improves your concentration or overall fitness? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!