Hyperactivity Can be a Sign of Genius: Get Your Butt Up and Move Around!

Okay, the title of this post tends toward hyperbole, but that’s the point.  I’ve always talked too much, and moved around too much for my own good, at least according to my teachers.  That’s why I tell people I turned a vice into a virtue by becoming a professor, where I get paid to talk too much and walk around a classroom instead of having to sit still all day.

Now comes evidence from Jim Sollisch in today’s Wall Street Journal that I’ve been right to be a bit fidgety all my life:

According to a recent study by the American Cancer Society, the more you sit still, the higher your risk of premature death. Women who sat for more than six hours a day increased their risk of premature death by 37% and men by 18%. Even in healthy people with normal body weights, too much sitting seems to have a negative effect on blood sugar and blood fats. Too much idle time decreases the production of lipoprotein lipase, or LPL, that’s vital to healthy processing of fat. And the scary part is that sitting for long periods of time seems to negate the health benefits of rigorous exercise.

The bottom line: Don’t just sit there—fidget. Bounce a leg. Get up and stand every 15 minutes or so. Take a quick walk around the room.

If only my first-grade teacher had recognized me for the health pioneer that I was. Here’s what she wrote on my report card in the comments section: “Jimmy has to learn to sit still and stay in his seat. He can’t jump up every minute and run around the room.”

Not only does all that tapping and leg crossing and squirming burn off calories, but fidgeting also has a positive effect on brain activity. There are literally hundreds of studies showing that physical movement provides a boost to thinking and problem-solving.

Karen still remarks upon, and occasionally tries to stop me from shaking my crossed leg whenever I have to sit still for very long, whether it’s at church, a lecture or meeting we’re attending, or when someone else is talking too much.  At least I can justify it as enhancing my creativity and productivity, as well as helping to reduce the fat from eating another slice of delicious pie from the Traverse Pie Shop.


P.S.  Mr. Sollisch and I had very similar first-grade teachers, and similar report cards.  Here’s mine from 1968-69:

Our Son is a Bookworm, Just Like his Parents!

Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention, because the subject of whether our son reads enough is never a subject of discussion:

A new report from publisher Scholastic affirms what many parents and teachers already know viscerally: As kids grow, they read less and spend more time going online and texting.

But the report also has some interesting details about the environment and actions that most encourage reading. Letting kids pick which books they read, having a range of books in the house and limiting access to technology all lead to more reading, according to the 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report. Nine out of ten kids, for example, say they are more likely to finish books they choose themselves.

There has been much hand wringing over how to get boys to read more, with publishers releasing books with gross-out humor and video-game components. The study points to another potential tactic: Getting dads to read more. Not surprisingly, parents who read a lot have kids who do so, too. But 42% of dads surveyed read books less than one day a week, compared with only 22% of moms who read so little. “We need to get more role models of men reading,” said Francie Alexander, Scholastic’s chief academic officer. “Dads like gadgets, too, so maybe we can get them involved around an e-reader.” (Publishers have been developing new interactive digital children’s books that allow kids to, say, tickle a character, record their own voices reading or complete mazes.)

On average, our 13 year-old son Jack reads at least long hardback book a week, and sometimes several, depending on whether school is in session.  He didn’t start out loving to read, and indeed, we had to work with him when he was just learning phonics and building up his vocabulary (the “Bob” series of little books for very young readers).  He became a voracious reader the same way that I did, but having two parents are voracious readers themselves, even though I now read a lot more magazines and newspapers (Forbes, The Atlantic Monthly, Entertainment Weekly; the Wall Street Journal and New York Times online every day) than books each week, which is the opposite of my high school to grad school years.  My work requires staying up to date on business, national, and international news (well, my interests also involve staying current), so that explains some of my decrease in book reading, but I also have a lot less leisure time than I used to.

We also let Jack pick his own books, which tend to fantasy and action adventure genres, but also include a fair number of biographies and military history.  I became a book worm because I fell in love with science and science fiction, after struggling to learn how to read in 1st grade.  By the end of 2nd grade, I was reading at the 5th grade level.  Jack easily reads at a college level, although his typical novels are not the same level as a college textbook.

We spend a small fortune on books for our children.  It is one of our luxuries, and we’ve never made them pay for their own books, except once in a while when Jack gets a lot of birthday or Christmas money or gift cards, and then he can afford books more than we can!

Jack is not just a bookworm.  He’s also quite expert at many video games on his XBox 360, and he’s on his way to becoming a terrific golfer, having played regularly for the past five years.  We work hard at limiting his video game playing time, which averages about 30 minutes a day.  We also discuss current events almost every day at dinner or in the evenings, and watch the news together several nights a week.  In this way, I am replicating my own childhood growing up with a father who was a journalism professor and a mother who was voracious reader herself.


Do you trust a boyfriend who wears a helmet yet offers you none?

I was driving to pick my kids up from school, when I drove past two kids on a motorcycle.  The driver was wearing a helmet, yet the young lady sitting behind him was not.  My first thought as a parent was, “I would hope my daughter would never entrust her life to a boy who would offer her a ride yet not offer her a helmet.”  How could this young lady trust him enough with her life if he was not willing to give her a helmet?

I don’t know enough about motorcycles or helmets, so I discovered that in Michigan, as in many states, both riders must wear a helmet.  It is especially true of riders younger than 17.  Considering that these two young people were leaving the high school near my home, I’m willing to bet they were both younger than 17.

This young lady was not only trusting this boy with her life, but she was trusting all of us to be careful drivers around both of them.