Back to School: In Praise of the Routine

L. Gregory Lawton, MD


September 26, 2018

Make Exercise Routine

Whereas one must eat and sleep (though would benefit more from such activities if the former is consumed as part of regular family meal and the latter at a reasonable hour, without an electronic device within reach), there is one other routine that can offer tremendous benefit but can easily find itself forgotten: regular exercise.

Routines offer a rhythmic pattern to the days, weeks, and seasons of our lives, as our children move from diapers to daycare to drama.

We all know this, but can always use a reminder of the many benefits of regular exercise for children (with thanks to KidsHealth from Nemours, which provides more detail in an excellent patient handout available in English and Spanish:

  • Active kids will have stronger and leaner bodies, better cardiovascular markers, and improved mental health.

  • The real key for kids (unlike adults) is that much of this exercise can and should take place during the course of play—at recess, at the playground, in the backyard, at the park.

  • Electronic distractions ensure that our thumbs are exceedingly fit. The effect on our waistlines, buttocks, or triceps skin folds are more negative.

Which brings me back to the whole idea of routines. As we counsel our patients and their parents, it is essential and healthy to emphasize the importance of routines. Routines offer a rhythmic pattern to the days, weeks, and seasons of our lives, as our children move from diapers to daycare to drama (looking at you, teenagers). Mealtime, sleep, and exercise routines are rewarding, as multiple studies underscore that groups of individuals who establish and stick with good habits in these areas tend to be healthier than those who do not. Routines are also sources for reflection, particularly when the season for a given routine surrenders to the season for another.

Those seemingly imperceptible folds of our days that made our feeding or bedtime routine may be part of a different season in our lives now. They are the stuff of fond memories and a nudge to find new routines, personally and professionally.

Change is good, but change is only really perceptible in the context of a routine.

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