Day 6: Exercise is the Best Medicine

This is Day 6 in the series: 31 days on Living with ADHD, Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder: What We Have Tried, What Has Worked, What Hasn’t Worked, and Never Giving Up.

Kids Home Gym for $50

Why All Kids Need Exercise

All kids need to work hard and play hard.  They need heavy work and exertion in their lives.  Kids with special needs have an even greater need for heavy work.  It is both calming and organizing to the brain.

In case you don’t believe me check out this research:

“The medical journal Pediatrics published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function.”

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“The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks). The images above show the brain activity in the group of kids who did the program as opposed to the group that didn’t. It’s the kind of difference that’s so dramatic it’s a little unsettling. The study only lasted nine months, but when you’re only seven years old, nine months is a long time to be sitting in class with a blue head.”

Exercise in kids leading to better cognitive ability doesn’t just apply to ADHD kids:

“… another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD. “

Dr John J. Ratey says “Exercise is for our brains.  Physical exercise turns our brains on as well as being healthy for our body.”  Hear more of what he has to say in this TED video entitled “Run, Jump, Learn! How Exercise can Transform our Schools”

For all of us exercise doesn’t just burn off extra energy, it is also turning on our brain.

Our In Home Gym for Under $50

For years Mr Rockstar’s occupational therapists have been preaching to us the value of exercise.  The best exercise is playing outside, walking to school, biking, hiking, running, sledding, kayaking, swimming, etc.  But lets face it….4 months out of the year in the Inland Northwest it is cold and wet.  While we do still sometimes venture out in the cold rain for a puddle jumping contest this usually doesn’t last very long before the kids are soaked to the bone begging to go home.

To combat the winter blues we have slowly acquired a children friendly in-home gym.  Since all the pieces have been found at Goodwill or Craigslist the total is under $50 for the lot.

1. Treadmill – $25 Craigslist

Treadmill

It won’t win a beauty contest and it squeaks but it works and it does still have the safety switch that attaches to Mr Rockstar’s clothes so if he were to fall down it will automatically turn off.  At occupational therapy Mr Rockstar has been using a treadmill for a while.  His therapist saw such benefit to it for Mr Rockstar in therapy that he recommended we find a used one for home.  There are actually a LOT of old treadmills on craigslist.  Since it is old and used I also don’t mind if the kids use it to race hot wheels cars on LOL.  The mornings we can’t walk or bike ride before school I have him use the treadmill for 10 minutes while watching a cartoon.  It does help.

2. Mini-Trampoline – $20 Craigslist

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These mini-trampolines must have been the fitness rage a while back so there are a TON used on craigslist.  Sometimes for a quick release of energy I will have Mr Rockstar go do 20 jumps.  Sometimes we incorporate it into an obstacle course.  As he does each round of the obstacle course he stops and jumps 10 times.  After he finishes the obstacle course he does a few lines of school work and then repeats the obstacle course until we are done.  Sometimes we just jump on it together as we practice counting or letter sounds.

3. Weights – $3 Goodwill (or as we like to call it “the charity shop”)

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Again Mr Rockstar has been using weights and weighted balls in therapy for a while.  He really likes using them especially if mommy or daddy are exercising as well.  Nothing like that to motivate us to exercise right?  😉  If you don’t have weights a gallon or half gallon milk jug full of water or sand works just as well.

4. Stationary Bike Game – $7 Goodwill

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I have wanted to get Mr Rockstar a stationary bike for sometime.  I was even starting to wonder if Hubby could convert an old bike into one.  Then we found a Fisher-Price Smart Cycle Extreme at Goodwill.  Mr Rockstar is a very tall 6 year old (95% percentile for his age) and this bike is really to small for him but he can still do it.  It is just the right size for the twins who LOVE it.  One nice thing about this bike is it does come with some games and you plug it up into your TV.  Essentially the games involve the child pedaling down the road and steering to catch the next number or letter they need.  When Mr Rockstar gets a little taller we will probably try to find a used stationary bike.

A Few Other Ideas:

  1. Do some wheel barrows with you kids.  To do this hold you child’s feet/legs under your arms and they walk (or wheel barrow) with their hands.  It really wears them out and is great for upper body strength.
  2. If you have a giant balance ball you can help them bounce on it.  These are also great for letting them sit and get the wiggles out without actually moving all around.
  3. Have a crazy dance party.  There is nothing like really dancing to get your heart rate up.  This is one of Mr Rockstar’s FAVORITE activities.  He dresses up like a rockstar, puts on his orange therapy glasses and his black “huggie” clothes, sets up a ton of mini flashlights in his room and we all dance.  Think Saturday Night Fever.  Yes we really are that cool.
  4. Swimming lessons.  In the winter we do sign Mr Rockstar up for some indoor physical activities.  For the time being we have just done swimming lessons.

I am going to start a Category for all “Work Hard, Play Hard” ideas for kids.  If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them!

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