January 31, 2021

Student Perspective: Why students need to get up and get outside

By Abby Straub, college student and TSI Student Ambassador 

Our latest research shows that 51% of students believe that COVID-19 is negatively impacting their social-emotional health. 

To put that into perspective, let me paint a picture of what many of us students experience each day. We’re on our laptops over six hours a day taking classes. After class, we sit some more to do our homework. We sit while we eat dinner. Finally, after a long day of sitting, we call it a day by taking a seat on the couch in front of our TV or tablet to wind down. 

The obstacles students are facing include groundhog day-like schedules, Zoom fatigue, and hours upon hours of sitting. We’re missing out on developmental milestones as we miss one-on-one social interactions and lose academic motivation. While adults can’t help us with our social calendars, they can help us by designing their classrooms to support our social-emotional health. 

We’ve identified three strategies to support healthy, productive students and build stronger school communities in 2021.

Here is how you can help. (You might want to stand up for this.)

1. Students want to be on their feet. 

We’re in the midst of a sit-demic. 55% of TSI surveyed middle schoolers and 54% of high schoolers agreed that they would consider making time in their schedule for a workout, walking, or running with friends to stay motivated. TSI created a #WinAtSocial LIVE Lesson called “Staying active and healthy while at home” to address exactly this problem.

This sedentary behavior leads to lower levels of focus as the day goes on, higher levels of ‘Zoom fatigue’, and yes, reduced social-emotional health. Physical exercise could be a way to make major improvements in your students’ life. Exercise has been proven to enhance our moods, is used as a treatment and tool to prevent anxiety, and alleviate depression symptoms because of the increase in serotonin through our brains. 

2. Level up your human interaction.  

While it’s not a good time for birthday parties and sleepovers, grade-school students still have a caregiver in their life. Taking a walk with your child during the day could be just the boost of serotonin that they need and a time for you to talk about their day. Remember, while exercise isn’t a cure for depression, being active has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The Social Institute parent resources, like Family Huddles, inspire positive family discussion and activities that support social-emotional health.

3. Strengthen mental resilience in the classroom. 

Research done by the Kid’s Health has shown that students who do brief bursts of exercise before taking tests score higher. On top of that, regular activity breaks during the school day can improve students’ abilities to focus in the classroom. Activity breaks or physical exercise have been shown to create greater retention and faster brain processing. Not only could these breaks lead to better focus and better grades, but better grades can lead to increased self-confidence. What parent, educator or student doesn’t want that?

So, now what? 

Encouraging your students and faculty to take as little as 20 seconds and stand up to give your brain a blood flow oxygen kick timeout, could make a huge difference for that class. Keeping students active at home too can make a difference as well. Even more than that, encouraging kids to take a walk in between classes or after their school day is over, could make a difference for the rest of their life. Help more students build important skills and strengthen social-emotional health by asking your school to sign up for #WinAtSocial.


About The Social Institute

The Social Institute partners with schools nationwide to empower students, parents, and educators to navigate social-emotional health, social media, and technology positively through comprehensive, gamified lessons that meet students on their level as well. We have partnered with forward-thinking institutions across the nation, including Ravenscroft School, Gaston Day School, Bryn Mawr, Gilman School, Woodward Academy, U.S. Olympic athletes, Duke Men’s Basketball, ESPN, and others. For more information, contact us.