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Mental Obesity June 6, 2007

Posted by edukfun in add, add parents, adhd, alternative treatment, art, aspergers, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, brain drain, camp, children, cognitive decline, concentration, education, exercise, fitness, health, ld, learning disability, memory, obesity, parenting, parents, school, social skills, sports, summer, underachieve, video games.
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Think of your brain like your body.  What do you feed it each day?  A brain diet high in video games and low in cognitive demands will lead to mental obesity!

The NY Times is reporting that new web sites aimed at children, especially girls, are on the rise. These sites allow kids to chat, Instant Message, Accessorize their cartoon avatars, dress up dolls and play video games.  Sounds like fun, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that your brain is like a muscle–use it or lose it.  Spending an hour or two playing high stimulus, low cognition games (or watching equivalent TV programs, or reading equivalent comic books) is fine IF IT IS PART OF A WELL-BALANCED BRAIN DIET.

What makes a well-balanced brain diet?

Introducing the Brain-Food Pyramid:

  • 1-2 Hours of High-Stimulus, Low-Cognition activities: video games, TV, passive music, chatting with friends, internet surfing.
  • 1-2 Hours of  High-Cognition Activities: reading above grade level, write an essay, playing a musical instrument, peak-performance athletics, planning a big project.
  • 1-2 Hours of Physical Activity: walking, jogging, swimming, unstructured playing, sports, bicycling, etc.
  • 1-2 Hours of Socializing: hanging out with friends and family.
  • 7-10 hours of sleep!

“Kids these days” are packing on 4-14 hours PER DAY of high stimulus activities that require next to zero thinking.  They’re ignoring the other aspects of life, sacrificing social skills and physical health (including sleep) in order to get their next “fix” of almost-free brain stimulus.

Your brain needs exercise every day in order to stay in shape.  Don’t let Barbie take that away!

Good luck,

Allen Dobkin

Dance Dance Revolution used in schools to fight obesity April 30, 2007

Posted by edukfun in add, adhd, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, children, education, exercise, fitness, obesity, school, social skills, video games.
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Hundreds – soon to be thousands – of public schools around the country are using the active video game Dance, Dance Revolution in Physical Education classes to get kids moving.

And the kids are eating it up. Why?

Children don’t often yell in excitement when they are let into class, but as the doors opened to the upper level of the gym at South Middle School here one recent Monday, the assembled students let out a chorus of shrieks.

In they rushed, past the Ping-Pong table, past the balance beams and the wrestling mats stacked unused. They sprinted past the ghosts of Gym Class Past toward two TV sets looming over square plastic mats on the floor. In less than a minute a dozen seventh graders were dancing in furiously kinetic union to the thumps of a techno song called “Speed Over Beethoven.”

Bill Hines, a physical education teacher at the school for 27 years, shook his head a little, smiled and said, “I’ll tell you one thing: they don’t run in here like that for basketball.”1

My initial reaction is: Duh.

P.E. was a combination of embarrassment, awkwardness, boredom and humiliation.

As a child, my experience with P.E. was a combination of embarrassment, awkwardness, boredom and humiliation.  Traditional Phys-Ed revolves around structured activities that are either competitive, “educational”, or both.  For example, dodge ball, baseball, kickball, crab-ball, basketball, etc.

How are they embarrassing?  HELLO!  Don’t you remember getting picked for teams?  I wasn’t always picked last, but no one was fighting to have me on their team.

Awkward?  Yep, for me, I was not a “natural athlete.”  I didn’t come out onto the field with innate coordination and skills.  I had to learn them my own way.  Eventually, I developed pretty good skills at Racquetball, golf and tennis.  Notice that those are NOT team sports?  That leads me back to boredom and humiliation.

For any Attention Deficit child, traditional PE activities are boring.

For my, and I think for any Attention Deficit child (ADD, ADHD, whatever), traditional PE activities are boring as standing in a hot field waiting for someone else to swing a wooden stick at a little ball on the off chance that it might come my way.  I mean, where is the stimulation?  Compare even Pac-Man against waiting in line for your turn at ONE KICK in kickball, and it is obvious why kids prefer video games!

Now to humiliation.  Yeah, there’s always that picked last phenomenon.  Harbor no illusions that the anxiety around being picked last is reserved for the bottom three or four kids.  Only the natural athletes, the kids everyone knows will be picked just about first, are exempt.  Everyone else worries about it.

But getting on the team doesn’t make you safe…now it’s worse!  Every aspect of your performance will be analyzed by your team AND the opposing team.  No mistake will be forgotten; they need to know so that next time they WILL pick you last!

So, I’m glad to hear that schools are only twenty years behind the times at making fitness interesting.  P.E. classes aren’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to obesity prevention, but they can make a difference.

Good Luck,

Allen

From NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/health/30exer.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin