Friday, February 26, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am way behind on technology. I am pretty old-fashioned. I still have a landline, my preschool students play with playdough, paint, and wooden blocks, I make my own cookies and soup, and sometimes bread.

As I am a fitness instructor, the techologicalization of exercise is very surprising to me. When I was a kid, I would ‘exercise’ all the time. I walked to school, had gym class everyday, and played outside all year-round. Our neighborhood was full games such as running bases, kick the can, sardines, and double dutch jump rope. My dad would walk around the house doing odd exercises and my mom embraced the Jazzercise motion. Also, our family was known to have spontaneous dance parties.

We all know that times have changed. Obesity is a major epidemic for a mirad of reasons. Now everyone is finding a way to solve this problem. The newest is electronic-supported exercise. I’m not talking about treadmills, elliptical machines, or stationary bikes or even the huge fitness DVD industry. I’m talking about video games such as Nintendo’s Wii.

Several years ago my husband convinced me that we needed Dance Dance Revolution so that we can exercise and have fun at the same time. We still play it once in awhile and after playing for an hour you might actually be sweating and burn a couple carlories. For research purposes, I recently spent an afternoon with my kids and another family playing Wii Fit and Wii Resort.

Surprise, surprise, I am not a video gamer so I had to take the time to learn how to use it and set up my profile including an initial body assessment and goal setting, The original Wii Fit includes yoga, strength, aerobics, and balance activities. A personal trainer explains and demonstrates each exercise and provides feedback. You learn, practice, and perform several activities at a time and as you go, you can access more and more activities.

(I will preface my review by saying that I am very active and my personal fitness level is probably higher than the average American.)

The yoga and strength portions are challenging for all levels of fitness. I particularly liked the yoga program since it provided lots of feedback to get your body in the right alignment. I found the strength portions a little advanced for the average person but once form is mastered, the exercises are good. The balance section was more game-like including hula hooping. This section was by the far the funnest. The aerobics section was not only difficult to understand and get the hang of, but not an effective cardio workout, even for beginners.

Since the programming takes several steps to actually begin, your workout is slow and discontinuous. The program will track how long your active workout is but to get a full 30-minute session of activity, it will take you 45-minutes of screen time. As I understand, the aerobics programs get longer as you go and the newer programs are a bit better. I also did not like how the steps were presented visually only (similar to DDR). I would have preferred voice commands to tell me what to do similar to attending a live step class. I do not believe that the participant’s heart rate will go up high enough for long enough to be effective for weight loss or maintenance.

Overall, for adults, this is just another fitness tool that is only as effective as you make it and isn’t as effective as more traditional technologies such as treadmills, elliptical, or DVD’s. As my friend told me, she used it a lot when she first got it and now, not so much.

For kids, it’s a different story. The balance section of the program is fun and easy for kids and will help them with balance, coordination, and core strength. My friend said that her son’s coordination and body awareness has improved since using it. As we moved onto the Wii Resort game, the kids were more active and worked up a sweat. I also found the Resort games to be more fun and a very effective core workout. Another person told me that her children love to play the Wii programs and think it is a good alternative to playing outside, which they don’t want to do anyways.

As a fitness professional, I don’t recommend the Wii for an effective way to lose weight or get into shape but a good source of fun and a supplement to another fitness program for all ages. As a teacher, I wouldn’t recommend it at all. I worry that video games are closing kids into their homes. Kids used to play outside with friends and now they play a video game alone in their living rooms. I would recommend you head outside and play with your kids, even in the winter. Go for walks, dance, run around, take a class, or join a team. Make friends with your neighbors or your child’s classmates so they have someone to play with.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What is the most important thing for young children to learn before kindergarten?

Social-emotional development!

I have no question in my mind about that answer. Social-emotional development, including recognition of emotions, coping skills, expression of emotions, empathy, compassion, and 'friend'-skills are the most important thing a child needs to learn before kindergarten.

Humans, in general, need these skills more than any other in order to survive. Solid social and emotion skills will help anyone be more successful in their careers and relationships. Think about that seemingly brilliant co-worker or family member of yours that has an IQ through the roof BUT you can't stand having a conversation with them. Or that family member who can't help you with the crossword but always knows the right thing to say when you are upset.

I have little doubt that my child will learn to read, write, and do math in elementary school. I am confident the fine kindergarten and first-grade teachers of the world will teach children letter recognition, phonetics, number placement, basic addition, the scientific process, and much more. If your child is already interested and knows some of these skills, that is great, but they are not necessary to enter kindergarten successfully.

What is necessary? Being able to navigate the social environment and make sense of it. Asking peers and teachers for what they need. Telling a parent or teacher when they are having difficulty with an academic concept or social situation. Being able to dress, feed, and toilet independently. Being able to learn the academics being presented even if emotionally they are upset. Seeking and giving comfort to those around you. Being able to calm down and focus their energy and attention to a teacher-directed task. Being able to make and maintain friends in their peer group. Learning to balance 'work' and 'fun'.

With my own children, academics has never really been a problem. Our issues always reside in the social-emotional realm. When my daughter first started elementary school, she never ate lunch because she would talk the whole time and then her friends would finish eating and leave for recess. Since there was not an adult sitting with her, urging her to eat, she had to learn to balance her conversation and eating as well as being emotionally ok with remaining at the table to finish while her friends left.

Recently, the now-seventh grader, saw a huge drop in her grades while she and her two best friends had a major falling out second quarter. She had a big challenging figuring out how to focus on her academics while she had to sit next to someone she was fighting with outside of class. This is a good example of how a child without the appropriate coping skills can hurt his academic development. If a child cannot cope with an intense emotion or situation, they cannot learn the information being presented to them. This includes recognizing the emotion or problem as well as finding or asking for help to resolve it.

We, as parents and educators, need to fill the social-emotional toolbox for our children so they can fill up the academic toolbox on their own.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oscar Nominations!

So they came out awhile ago but I am working hard to see as many films nominated for Academy Awards (aka the Oscars) as possible. Unfortunately, many of the films are in viewing-limbo somewhere between theaters and dvd.

I was fortunate enough to see ALL the nominated short films both live and animated this past weekend at the Art Theater in Champaign* (Thank you again Sanford for bringing them to us!). If you look hard enough, you can find many online but it was a treat to see these amazing films before the awards and on the big screen. I really enjoyed Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (animated) and The New Tenants (live).

I have also caught up on some documentaries including Food Inc. and The Cove. Both greatly insightful films that can change your life. I encourage everyone to see them.

As for the other films, I still haven't seen Avatar (I just don't have 3+ hrs to devote) or Up in the Air but I did see Up (of course), Inglorious Basterds, and The Hurt Locker thus far. Up is, by far, my favorite film in the Best Film category but I am a girl and the top films are very masculine this year, despite the 10 nominations.

There are films and performances that got overlooked such as Woody Harrelson in Zombieland and the girl in the The Orphan, The Hangover, Harry Potter 6, and Monsters vs. Aliens.

Two more weeks to see as much as possible!

*If you live in CU, please check out the Art Theater, under new management. They really do have the best concessions in town including baked goods from local bakeries, coffee/tea, and stuffed pretzels. They also have a film discussion on Tuesdays and great late-night shows on the weekends. The new owner/manager is a great man with an open-mind and heart to film and the community.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Long Green Line

A film about the famous Joe Newton and York High School's Cross Country Team, The Long Green Line, is now available on Hulu.

Please check it out! It is an amazing story of an amazing man with the right philosophy on life.

Click here to watch it now!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Quick updates!

Life has been crazy, par usual. So here are some things that have been going on since the fall.

*6yo learned to read and is now reading every thing possible.
*13yo took a part in CPD production of Guys and Dolls and loved it! Thanks Christy!
*Started playing Bunco with a group of fabulous women. A great way to feel like an adult, even for just 2hrs a month.
*Husband finally cleaned out the basement in long-preparation of renovations.
*We welcomed Carmen, a beautiful chocolate-brown kitten, to the family. Too bad the other cats aren't so happy about it.
*Has spent way too much time at the dr and vet with a variety of viruses, bacterial infections, and accidents. Thank you health insurance!
*Shoveled lots and lots of snow!
*Survived the holidays with our sanity!
*Discovered the Biggest Loser and Jillian it!
*Watched a lot of Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Its Preschool Registration Time! Yes, really!!

If you are thinking about preschool for your child next fall, this is the time to register! It seems early but the time will fly by quickly.

I, of course, have lots to say on the topic, but I will be brief and to the point today.

Things to consider while selecting a preschool:

1. Make sure to take the time to learn about the program including taking a tour while students are present. Nothing will give you a better picture of the program than seeing it in action. And bring your child with you.

2. Find out about the curriculum they use. Personally and professionally, I prefer play-based, process-orientated, child-centered programs. Programs that focus on social-emotional development are more appropriate for young children. (more on these ideas in previous and later posts).

3. Ask questions! Any question you might have about anything, ask it.

There are a lot of fabulous programs out there including your local school district but most have application deadlines this month and next, so get moving. You may find some spots later on but if there is a program you love, apply now!

Back to Blogging

So I had decided to stop blogging since I didn't feel that I had the time and the readership to continue but I find that I still have things I would like to write about share. So, thus, I continue. Please welcome me back and share with your friends!