Today on SBRN: Reducing Classroom Sedentary Time

We talk a lot here on Obesity Panacea about the health-impact of sedentary behaviour. Recently our colleague Ernesto Ramirez performed a terrific interview with Kimberely Ramsey, a 4th grade teacher in Virginia who has developed a “Read and Ride” program to keep her students active and reduce their sedentary time during the school day.  To download a video of the class click here here, or you can watch it online here.

I’ve included the first portion of the interview below, and you can read the full interview at the Sedentary Behaviour Research Network.  While you’re there, check out the world’s largest database of sedentary behaviour research, or join the network (it’s free!).

Enjoy the interview!

ER: What is the Read & Ride Program?

KR: I have 1 stationary bike, 1 treadmill, 3 pedal bikes, and 6 stability balls in my classroom.  Throughout the day, I choose students to use this equipment while they are reading their AR (Accelerated Reader books), as well as during other various times.  This is a motivation for students to read, to be focused, to keep their desk areas organized, to not disturb others, etc.  They want to be chosen for this special treat!  They keep a log of how many minutes they read and exercise daily at home and at school.

ER: What prompted you to start the Read & Ride Program?

KR: Many things prompted me to implement this type of program.  First of all, I was diagnosed with heart disease about 10 years ago.  Second, I am a mother of 2 daughters, so I wanted to be a good role model for them.  Finally, it’s never made sense to me how or why we would ever expect 9-year olds to remain still and silent all day in a classroom!  Impossible!  I’ve taught the collaborative class (LD and Autistic) for many years throughout my career.  They need to get up and move!  What better way to encourage my favorite subject with getting rid of the fidgets at the same time! READ + RIDE!!!

Our class motto is…”What your MIND can conceive and your HEART can believe your BODY can achieve!”

ER: What have you learned from having access to exercise equipment in the classroom?

KR: I have learned that just like we have to teach our children to make healthy choices at home, as parents, we must also continue this in our classrooms. With childhood obesity and diseases like diabetes spreading like wildfire, we must ALL take a stand to make positive changes.  We can’t just teach our children, we must show them and be good role models. That being said, I can ride the bike while reading a story to them!  It’s a win-win situation for us all.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

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8 Responses to Today on SBRN: Reducing Classroom Sedentary Time

  1. Something that puzzles me about this, unlesss I’m misunderstanding it. I can read while doing other things, but only for what I consider very superficial reading, not deep reading for comprehension and active learning. Serious reading takes a lot of concentration and constant low-level activity alters cognitive processes significantly. One of the classic protocols for hypnosis was having people pedal while doing other things as an alternative to suggestions related to sleepiness, and it has similar effects on attention. That obviously would have a pervasive effect on the mental activity involved in reading. This probably sounds like a much better idea to people who mostly read relative light material for fun than it does for people who are reading to get a deeper understanding of a complex topic.

    My thought here is that activity is better interspersed with academic activity, rather than combined with it, so that we can use the activity period to help shift between topics and foster “incubation” and so on. We seem to be playing one objective against another if we try to foster physical activity at the same time as serious learning is supposed to be happening. Even in the case of learning athletic skills, we deliberately reduce the background activities for the purpose of learning rather than having that noise conflicting with the attention needed for skill aquisition. The same seems likely for learning from reading.

    What do you think?

    • Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

      I think this might be a personal preference. Personally, I find that I am able to take in academic papers much better when I`m on the bike. I think it might be because when I`m just sitting in a chair, I don`t like to take a 1-2 minutes to just stop and ruminate on something, since it seems like a waste of time to just sit in a chair and think. But for me personally, I`m used to letting my mind wander while on the bike or on a jog. And I find that ability to read a paragraph, think about it for a couple minutes, read it again, make a little diagram or whatever, allows me to get a much better understanding of the paper than if I were simply reading it from front to back.

      I`m not sure if that would work for everyone, but I find that it works very well with my personal learning style. For what it`s worth, I`ve had other people tell me that they`re more like yourself, and can`t imagine trying to do work while on a stationary bike.

  2. Thanks Travis. Could be prefernce,I suppose, although I think I would expect it to be also a matter of individual differences in where on the arousal curve each of us performs best for each type of task.


  3. Nora says:

    I have narcolepsy. A classroom like this would have been a huge help to me as a kid. Even a stability ball (which I use now at my sit-stand desk) would have helped. I do nearly all my reading, knitting, guitar playing, etc., either standing/pacing or walking. I tried the bike stand inside but it drives the dogs nuts. I find it makes concentration easier, as long as you’re not doing interval training or some such.

  4. Jackie says:

    Yes, let’s teach children how to inhabit exercise bulimia behaviors! Let’s teach them, that aside from sleep, they should be moving every single second of the day. That certainly wouldn’t contribute to them ending up with a starvation eating disorder. /sarcasm

    • Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

      Just to provide some context… we talk a lot about the health impact of sedentary behaviour (which is the focus of SBRN). There’s been quite a bit of evidence in the past few years to suggest that even if you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, the more you sit the greater your risk of chronic disease. The way to reduce risk (we think) isn’t necessarily to exercise more, but to simply sit less. For example, I use a standing desk when I work from home, rather than sitting down. It doesn’t have to be anything like exercise, and it doesn’t have to be all the time. In fact, that kind of thing is completely unsustainable, and not very fun for kids or adults.

      All that to say that I’m *not* suggesting that kids be forced to exercise all day while doing their school work (and I don’t think that’s what this program entails). But allowing kids to move if they choose at a self-selected pace, rather than forcing them to sit all day, isn’t going to turn them into exercise addicts.

  5. So we seem to need people to be more active, without interfering with other things or encouraging new pathologies. Perhaps we need to address this at a higher level. Perhaps we need to address it by changing the way workpaces and schools are organized. Class schedules and layouts should perhaps encourage periodic activity of varying intensity and so should workpaces. This is not so terribly impractical as it might seem. I’ve worked in several places where most people walked or stretched or trained in a gym during the work day. Not only is it healthier but the productivity improvements are often significant. It takes a cuktural imperative for the organization though. Think that approach could work?

    • Travis says:

      I agree entirely. My wife and I discuss this quite a bit since she’s a teacher, and it seems that many teachers already allow kids to move around a lot (especially in the younger ages). But I think anything that makes it possible to move without being a distraction to the other students is a great step in the right direction. Ditto for standing workstations in the workplace, or simply making it socially acceptable to take a walk at lunch.