All around the country, kids are heading back to school or getting used to virtual learning. Everyone’s summer pretty much went by in a blur; most parents are either jumping for joy or dreading getting back to the daily grind of normalcy.

As parents, we are making sure we get mental learning underway with our children, but let’s not forget the physical activity. Science supports that physical activity enhances brain function and cognition, both of which improve academic performance.

Once school resumes on campus, keep the kids active when they get home. Instead of heading straight for the television, encourage your child to play a game of catch with a friend, skip rope, shoot some hoops, ride a bicycle, dance or even play a game of hopscotch. Join in on activities with your child. This will benefit you along with your child. Watching their parent make healthy choices and give their kids an opportunity to talk about their day will reduce children’s anxiety and stress levels. After working up an appetite, create a healthy meal together in the kitchen. Homemade pizza is an easy go-to. Start with a whole wheat or cauliflower crust, add tomato sauce and then choose some healthy toppings such as cheese, spinach, veggies and leaner meat options. Serve a slice with a tossed salad and you have a quick and healthier dinner option.

If your child’s school resumes online, keep the same mindset — keep kids active. Take 5-10 minute breaks between class subjects and do different exercises, stretches or activities. Reach out to your child’s P.E. teacher to get some at-home activities that are age- appropriate. Throughout the day, help keep your child’s energy levels up, which will improve the mind and mood. Reinforce a healthy atmosphere by incorporating a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack daily. Healthy foods include whole grain waffles or eggs, baked chicken nuggets or ham and cheese wraps, pieces of fruits/veggies or granola bars.

Exercise is beneficial for cognition because it increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain and also creates increased levels of norepinephrine and endorphins, resulting in a reduction of stress and an improvement in mood. With the uncertainty of these days, this is really important to your child’s daily routine.

Just like you, your child doesn’t need to log 30 to 60 minutes in the gym or in a specific exercise class. A game of tag here, a bike ride there are both fine. Short bursts of activity, with periods of rest in between, are actually the way our body was designed to move. It’s not a bad idea to join your child in a game of tag or a trip around the block on your bicycle.

When the entire family works together, fitness and health are both fun and doable. For help keeping your family healthy, please refer to the Healthy Kingsport website at www.healthykingsport.org.

Healthy Kingsport is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community that actively embraces healthy living by promoting wellness, enhancing infrastructure, and influencing policy. Aiesha Banks is its executive director. She can be reached at abanks@healthykingsport.org.