By Raymond Shipley
Nothing seems to bring family together more than getting outside and tackling the elements. Be it relaxing by the pool or hiking through hills, togetherness of this sort always reinforces the family unit as a living organism, working together toward a common goal. Physical activity likewise serves as a fundamental aspect for children's psychological well-being. Sadly, more and more Western families are allowing kids to sit in front of technology disproportionate to their time together being active. But is this physical activity just about being together as a family, or does it serve a greater function?
It just so happens neuroscientists concur physical activity is the best way to maintain brain health throughout life. The reasons for this are myriad, but include: increased blood flow, which improves cerebrovascular health; the benefits of glucose and lipid metabolism which bring nutrients to the brain; and the release of neurotrophic factors, which stimulate the growth of new neurons. Likewise, researchers at the Beckman Institute found physical activity also improves white matter. In two separate studies it was found physical activity improved the white matter integrity of physically fit children as well as in "low fit" adults aged 60 to 78. White matter integrity is linked to faster neural conduction between brain regions and superior cognitive performance. Changes in white matter are associated with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Hippocrates famously said, "Walking is man's best medicine." It seems he was right. The enemy to maintaining a healthy brain is sedentarism. It isn't necessary to bodybuild or run marathons, but it appears being physically active helps the brain, even if it is light and in small doses.
Beyond the cognitive benefits of physical activity, family time is imperative to children's maturation. It is through this time together all members of the family feel important and loved by the others. When Mom and Dad spend precious moments with their children, cultivating in them the knowledge they are loved, that they matter, it reinforces the ideal they are connected to the world. Failing to matter to one's family increases the probability of violence, whereas a strong feeling of importance serves to deter our growing children from engaging in behaviors detrimental to themselves and society as a whole.
A good parent spends as much time as possible with family, raising children to excel in every possible way. Technology needs to take a back seat in the raising of our families, so get outside and reacquainted with the world.