January 13, 2016

Nashville area has plenty of affordable opportunities to help children ‘make the grade.’


Some good old-fashioned horsing around might lead to better grades in the classroom, says the Tennessee Department of Health. Studies have shown that school-age kids who get a healthy dose of physical activity often have better performance at school.

The CDC released a report that details the benefits of students getting one hour of activity a day. Obvious benefits of physical activity include improved muscle strength, bone health and endurance. Regular exercise can also reduce the risk of chronic illness. All of these things lead to fewer missed school days. Mental benefits include increased self-esteem, reduced stress and anxiety and possibly improved focus.

“Physical activity is one of the best forms of medicine we have,” says Shari Barkin, M.D., division chief of general pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and director of pediatrics obesity research at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine. “It helps improve both physical and mental health, and in many cases, can be free.”

The Tennessee Department of Health and other professionals recommend about one hour a day of movement. The activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

“In Nashville we have high-quality, affordable opportunities to interact with greenways, bikeways, playgrounds and community recreation centers, among many other options,” Barkin said.

For younger kids, a little romping in the outdoor area at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center combined with an easy walk on the greenway, for example, will suffice. Or head to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park and play a geography game on the 200-foot granite Tennessee map. Swimming lessons at the YMCA, an extracurricular sport or even a simple game played in the backyard are great activities, as well. For older kids, a family bike ride on the Music City Bikeway provides fresh air and fun.

“In our research,” Barkin says, “we have learned that when families are physically active together, it improves the health of both parents and children and builds good habits for the developing child. Another bonus: It helps children focus in the classroom and improves their behavior.”

Parents: Don’t discount the benefits of physical activity for your everyday wellness. We share some of our favorite (and easiest) tips here.