This 4-Minute Exercise Is Fun, Easy and Scientifically Proven to Help Kids Focus
Between school, chores, meals and a million other little things, you and your kids probably have, what, four minutes total of free time? Well, if you’re trying to fit in some exercise, that might just be enough. In fact, my mother, Judy Katz, a pediatric occupational therapist in Chicago, was recently raving to me about how easy and beneficial FUNtervals can be for children. Developed by Jasmin Ma, Shane Sures and Brendon J. Gurd, FUNtervals are four total minutes of storytelling, high-intensity exercise and rest. One FUNterval includes eight 20-second bursts of enthusiastic movement followed by ten seconds of rest.
Not only are they fun and engaging, but interval exercises have been proven to help kids focus and become more regulated. When kids are emotionally dysregulated, they’re less in control of their responses to certain stimuli. Think: extreme reactions to small triggers. Katz explains, “While you probably experience lots of emotional responses internally—perhaps you found out an ex is dating a new person, or a coworker copied your outfit—you (hopefully) don’t wail and pound your fists on your desk. Kids, on the other hand, don't always know how to regulate their emotions, and a little movement can calm their minds.”
The best part? You can customize the story and exercise. Good movements include frog hops, jumping jacks, squatting, jumping, ducking, scissors hops, bending and reaching and high-knee running—any movement you can complete mostly in place. Leading older kids? Feel free to skip the story.
We’ve created our own story below to get you started. Ready, set, go!
One day, you’re watching your dog, Roxy, when you hear a skateboarder go by, and all of sudden, Roxy darts out the front door to chase him. Oh no! You have catch her! So...RUN IN PLACE FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS
Outside, you look left, right, up and down for Roxy. But the sidewalk is icy, and you slide all over the place like an ice skater. So…LUNGE SIDE TO SIDE FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.
You spot Roxy! The only problem? She’s way up in a tree! So, you have to reach really, really high, all the way to the tallest branches to try to grab her. So…STRETCH YOUR ARMS UP TO THE SKY AND REACH FROM SIDE-TO-SIDE FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.
Ugh. You graze Roxy’s foot, but you can’t grab her. It’s time to jump as high as you can for her! So…JUMP IN PLACE FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.
Yay! You finally rescue Roxy from the tree! You carry her in your arms, but she’s so heavy you had to squat to make sure you don’t drop her. So… SQUAT AND STRETCH FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.
You cross a narrow bridge on the way home and use your balance to walk one foot in front of the other until you cross. So…WALK HEEL TO TOE FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.
Oh no! The end of the bridge is closed off. You have to walk backwards all the way
back. So…WALK HEEL TO TOE BACKWARDS FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.
Hurray! You made it all the way home and saved Roxy! To celebrate you decide to jump in the snow and make snow angels. So…JUMPING JACKS FOR 20 SECONDS, REST FOR 10 SECONDS.