Help Your Learners Go the Distance with Good Nutrition and Exercise

One of the few things that has been consistent in 2020 is the fact that it is a year like no other.  When schools closed in the spring, it was generally assumed they would return after a short break.  After reality set in, schools moved quickly to provide some type of “crisis learning” that could be done from home and looked forward to the fall, when things would be “back to normal.”  When it became evident that wouldn’t happen, schools went to work on a better organized, more successful way to allow students to continue learning, despite not being in the classroom full time, or in some cases, at all.

Distance learning is not easy, but it is a fact of life for this period of time.  Many factors will affect how families handle the logistics.  There are variations from home to home, school to school, district to district.  The common thread is that students are signing into a device and interacting with their teacher and classmates online.  For many, this involves them sitting with their eyes fixed on a screen for much of the day.

To learn in this environment, requires students to maintain focus and concentration.  It’s a tall order, especially for younger students or those with academic challenges, but there are things that can be done that will help them be successful.

Psychologists have studied patterns of behavior which can be used to help create strategies for managing lifestyle changes, such as excelling in a distance learning environment.  As an added bonus, these tips can help adults who are working from home as well!

For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review.  The hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training and secondary and higher psychology instruction. Maslow taught that a person’s most basic needs must be more or less met before a person can meet other needs.  The recent pandemic has put many of those most basic needs in jeopardy.

One of the first things to consider is nutrition.  The food we eat is what fuels the body to do all of the functions needed to live and to perform activities we enjoy.  A nutritious diet is important to provide the variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that our body uses.

  • A good balanced breakfast helps start the day right. Energy producing carbs, and fiber help kick off the day and healthy protein feeds the brain for a day of learning.
  • Healthy snacks that include protein help keep the juices flowing in the brain while preventing a sugar crash that often follows sugary snacks.
  • Lunch is another opportunity to get important nutrients into the body while satisfying hunger. Include some vegetables and choose fruit over candy to placate the sweet tooth.
  • Stay hydrated. Of course, water is generally the best beverage for snacks.  To change things up a little, add a piece of fruit or fresh herb to flavor the water.  Limit or totally avoid sweetened drinks that bring on sugar crashes and create dental problems.

Ideally, these would be obvious and easy to do.  However, for those for whom budgets were already tight, this may be difficult.  Fortunately, many local school systems offer food distribution programs and have set up means for families to be able to pick up the food they would normally get from school, to help meet this important need.  Additionally, many communities have set up or expanded food pantries in an effort to provide access to food, regardless of current financial difficulties.

Another basic need all people share is healthy movement.  In the time of a pandemic, doing what you can to stay healthy is more important than ever.  Children don’t have to have a full playground or gym to get exercise, and neither do adults.

When children are in school, they are not at a desk all the time.  They are getting up to turn in papers to the teacher, rotating to various centers or stations in the classroom, walking to the library, gym and cafeteria, even going to the bathroom involves a jaunt down the hall.  This movement helps give the brain a break and helps students focus better when they return to studying.  It’s important to include this movement, even when doing remote learning.  Here are a few ideas to make moving fun!

  • Dance party. Turn on the radio for 1-2 songs and dance it out.
  • Go Noodle– This website gives kids a fun and silly way to work out the wiggles! Kids will love jumping, moving, and singing along to their favorite Go Noodle You can stream the videos on Youtube or on your SmartTV.
  • Yoga– Classroom yoga will give kids the break they need in between tasks. Encourage kids to be mindful as they move through favorite yoga poses in a group setting. There are Youtube channels with themed yoga videos kids will enjoy!
  • Roll A Mini-Workout – Find some “workout dice” at your favorite retailer or search for some online. They are large cubes that have exercises instead of dots on each side.  Roll the dice, do 10 jumping jacks, roll it again, hold a plank.  If you don’t have dice and don’t want to purchase them, make your own activity cards.  Write down several simple exercises, 1 on each card.  Put them in a container and draw a few out to do.  Or, assign an exercise to a color and then pick up a building block out of the toy box.  Whatever color it is, do the corresponding exercise.
  • Air Spelling– Challenge kids to “air write” their spelling words or sight words.  If that’s too easy, have them lay down on the ground and “air write” with their toes!  Or perhaps, mix in a little yoga style moves and have them try to make the shape of the letter with their body.
  • Animal Action Charades – Write, draw or download images of animals onto a card along with a movement or action often associated with that animal. A few examples:  Gallop like a horse.  Swim like a fish.  Dig like a puppy.  Scratch like a monkey.  Sing like a bird.  Roar like a lion.  When your student needs a break, grab the cards and do a few animal imitations.
  • Activity Charades – Don’t stop with animals! Give your student an activity to act out and encourage them to really get into it.  Some ideas might be, air guitar solo, pretend to dribble and shoot a basketball, going through a car wash, walk like an astronaut or robot, steer a race car or sail a large ship.

In addition to nutrition and healthy movement tips, chiropractors can provide families with information on musculoskeletal health and strategies to prevent pain, such as being aware of posture and ways to improve it, getting adequate rest, and managing stress naturally.

School can be hard.  School at home online, can be even harder. By maintaining healthy eating habits and incorporating movement into the day, students will be better prepared and able to focus and learn.  Use these tips to stay healthy and keep moving forward.



Weintraub, LeeAnn.  “6 nutrition and exercise tips for children and students distance-learning at home”  PUBLISHED: September 8, 2020  Accessed 9/22/2020.

Wikipedia.  “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” Accessed 9/22/2020

McLeod, S. A. (2020, March 20). “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. Simply Psychology.