How important is exercise for primary school children? Impact on child development and well-being in the digital media age

Textbook, 2018

45 Pages


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Movement in development
2.1 Movement as a basic child's need
2.2 Effect on cognitive abilities
2.3 Effect on physical condition
2.4 Movement and social development

3 The influence of movement on the development of the self
3.1 The influence of movement on the self-concept
3.2 The Influence of Exercise on Self-Efficacy
3.3 Negative development of the self due to lack of exercise

4 KiGGS study
4.1 General information
4.2 Relevant results for the present work

5 Movement of primary school children today and possibilities for further shaping movement
5.1 Movement spaces
5.2 Digital media as a contributor to a lack of exercise

6 Well-being
6.1 Subjective and objective well-being
6.2 Physical activity and state of health
6.3 Physical activity and balance

7 Final reflection
7.1 Summary and conclusions
7.2 Appeal to social work

8 Bibliography and source index

1 Introduction

"Movement is a fundamental phenomenon of human life, man is dependent on it by nature" (Zimmer 2009, p. 17).

Life is movement – movement is life. Without exercise, life would not only be unthinkable, but simply impossible. Vital processes, such as heartbeat and breathing, are only possible through movement (muscle contractions). Today, however, the required degree of active movement depends on the life situation of the individual. In adults, physical activity may be directly related to their state of health (cf. Haskell 2000, p. 930). According to Zimmer and other leading experts, it is of immense importance, especially in the development of children:

"Childhood is an eventful time, in no other stage of life does movement play such an important role as in childhood" (Zimmer 2009, p. 16; cf. also Billmeier/Ziroli 2014, p. 123).

This raises the question of what the current movement behavior of children looks like. However, this work is specifically about primary school children in order to narrow down the topic somewhat. Postural problems, obesity, cardiovascular weaknesses and movement impairments in children are becoming more and more common (cf. Zimmer 2008, p. 23). These health problems can be attributed to a lack of exercise, which has increased in recent years: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), german: World Health Organization), children and adolescents should be active in sports for at least 60 minutes a day. According to a study by the Robert Koch Institute, only 31% of primary school children achieved this recommended minimum level of physical activity between 2009 and 1012 (cf. Manz et al. 2014, p. 844). In the "second wave" of the study, in the years 2014 to 2017, it was even only 26.4% (see Finger et al. 2018, p. 26). At the same time, a significant increase in media use among children can be observed, which, according to Spitzer, is already worryingly high (cf. Spitzer 2012, pp. 11-12). Here, too, there are already studies and research results on the basis of which clear statements can be made. In the further course of this work, this will be discussed in more detail. So does the increasing use of digital media correlate with the decrease in movement in childhood? This would mean that if exercise promotes well-being, digital media would be a reason for its deterioration. Even the youth word 2015 has something to do with the increasingly widespread smartphone: It reads "Smombie" (cf. Spitzer 2016, p. 8). This combination of the two words smartphone and zombie (a willless person without a soul) says that some people are trapped in their own digital world by the almost non-stop occupation with the mobile phone. In addition, it illustrates how even the personality can change as a result and how this is sometimes no longer recognizable.

Children have a wide variety of possibilities and situations to experience movement. You should have the opportunity for active sports in everyday life. But what does the current movement situation in the different areas of children's lives look like? In order to answer this question, the current results of the KiGGS study are used in this work and partly compared with previous results in order to be able to recognize the social change and the tendencies of children's movement activity within the last few years.

Why is exercise so important and what effects does it have in childhood? This topic has already been dealt with in many ways and is to be reproduced on a scientific basis in my work. In the following, the literature of the sports scientist Prof. Dr. Renate Zimmer is used in particular. What significance does movement in child development have for the well-being of primary school children in the digital media age? In this work, I would like to highlight whether, according to the latest findings, physical and sporting activity of primary school children in Germany should be promoted and whether their well-being can be increased as a result. So what exactly defines this well-being and what role does one's own well-being play in the development of a child? How does physical activity affect this?

In order to deal with the topic as adequately as possible in terms of content, the importance of movement in child development is described below (Chapter 2). For this purpose, movement is first explained as a basic child's need (Chapter 2.1). Subsequently, the effect of exercise on cognitive abilities (Chapter 2.2) and then the physical condition (Chapter 2.3) is considered. This chapter is divided into motor skills (Chapter 2.3.1), physical health (Chapter 2.3.2) and the consequences of physical inactivity (Chapter 2.3.3). Then the connection between movement and social development is established (Chapter 2.4). The influence of movement on the development of the self is described below (Chapter 3). For this purpose, it is first shown how movement can influence the self-concept (chapter 3.1) and self-efficacy (chapter 3.2). Finally, the possible consequences of lack of exercise on the self are shown (Chapter 3.3). In this context, the KiGGS study (Study on the Health of Children and Adolescents in Germany) is presented (Chapter 4). For this purpose, general information about the study is first presented (Chapter 4.1) and then the results relevant to this work are presented (Chapter 4.2). Subsequently, the current movement of primary school children and possibilities for the further shaping of movement are addressed (Chapter 5) and different movement spaces are considered (Chapter 5.1), namely the social space (Chapter 5.1.1), the living environment (Chapter 5.1.2) and the socio-ecological zones (Chapter 5.1.3). Subsequently, the digital media are analyzed as a co-cause of the current lack of exercise (Chapter 5.2). Then well-being is discussed (Chapter 6) and subjective and objective well-being is defined first (Chapter 6.1). In the following, the connection between physical activity and the state of health (Chapter 6.2) and between physical activity and balance (Chapter 6.3) is examined. The final reflection (Chapter 7) is divided into the summary and conclusions of the work (Chapter 7.1) and the resulting appeal to social work (Chapter 7.2).

For reasons of legibility, this work refrains from using gender-specific formulations. As far as the male form is listed, men and women are meant in the same way.

2 Movement in development

The topic of movement is too big to be able to work on it comprehensively in the context of this work. Therefore, the scope of movement is briefly explained below, which is to be addressed here. The so-called everyday movement includes the regular, everyday movement activities, such as walking, playing, etc. However, in this work, the aspect of physical activity is more important. Bouchard and Shepard defined the term "physical activity" in 1994 as causing significant energy expenditure produced by muscles1 (cf. Bouchard/Shepard 1994, p.77).

2.1 Movement as a basic child's need

Exercise is a basic need of children. As already mentioned in chapter 1, people are closely associated with exercise even before birth. Furthermore, active movement is a need and an urge that can be explored on a neurobiological level. Transmitter excesses, such as the happiness hormone dopamine, lead to a more intense urge to move in children than in adults. In addition, a pronounced activity of the pallidum (certain region within the cerebral cortex), as well as an increased supply of protein stores are responsible for the fact that children move more than adults (cf. Weineck 2004, quoted from Rauschert 2017, p. 6). It becomes clear that high movement activity in the development of a child is predestined by human biology. This makes movement a basic anthropological need.

The older the child gets, the more he can actively move – for example, when he learns to walk. Then exploring the environment is also closely linked to active movement, because children run to discover more and more things. They perceive their environment as a world of movement, even if it is not designed for movement (cf. Zimmer 2008, p. 14). Children therefore see opportunities for movement in a wide variety of situations and places. They can use their imagination to try out a wealth of movement options. This behavior does not have to be rewarded or brought about by manipulation, but happens automatically in development. Through movement, children actively deal with their environment and get to know themselves and the laws of the environment (cf. Zimmer 2013, p. 9). When children reach primary school age, movement sequences are specialized and improved. In physical education, it can be clearly seen how, for example, balance and coordination skills develop enormously (cf. Kirchner 2005, p. 69). This means that at this age, various extremely important skills are developed for later life. However, this is not conscious training for children, but is automatically learned in playful movement, such as in physical education at school or while playing in their free time. The faster a movement is performed, the more complicated it is to implement. Thus, already learned movement sequences must be further practiced and improved, since fast movements in adulthood are indispensable (for example, quick reaction in case of danger in road traffic). Thus, active movement of children is not only important up to school age, but also at primary school age, as already learned movements must be expanded and perfected.

Furthermore, Zimmer describes the striving for autonomy and independence as a motive for movement (cf. Zimmer 2010, p. 29). Independence as a basic need can be satisfied in various ways through movement. Through movement, a child learns to be able to do more and more things himself. For example, by cycling, it can explore even more distant places and share a joint activity with friends. As a result, the slow decoupling from the parents takes place automatically. Furthermore, contacts can also be made in a sports club and regular meetings can take place, so that friends with the same interests gain more and more influence in the life of the child and the time spent together without the parents leads to independence.

The fact that the promotion of exercise in childhood has a positive effect on physical, motor, personal, social and cognitive development has already been proven several times in studies (cf. Ahnert et al. 2003, pp. 185-199; Hollmann et al. 2003, pp. 467-474; Fleig 2008, pp. 11-16; Finger et al. 2018, p. 24). This will be discussed in more detail in the following chapters.

2.2 Effect on cognitive abilities

Cognitive abilities include perception, attention, memory, thinking, problem solving and learning (cf. Jasmund 2009, p. 40). At birth, a person has over one hundred billion neurons (nerve cells) in the brain. However, these must be linked together before they can work. The connection of two neurons is called synapse and occurs through active sensory stimuli, i.e. through touches, movements, etc. These connections make it possible to forward information. According to neuroscientists, how well networking develops in the brain depends on activity. (cf. Zimmer 2009, p. 43). This means that movement not only affects synapse formation, but determines it. It can therefore be seen as the basis for cognitive development. Thus, active action, which automatically also requires movement, is fundamental for thinking and learning itself. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is considered the founder of cognitive developmental psychology (cf. ibid., p. 44). According to Piaget, thinking first happens in the form of active action. Then, by practically coping with a situation, the child can learn to understand the associated theory (cf. Piaget 2002, quoted from Zimmer 2009, p. 45).

"Actions are internalized in such a way that at a later point in time the abstraction of the concrete activity is possible, the result of the actions can be anticipated and now the idea takes the place of trying it out" (Zimmer 2009, p. 45).

Children can therefore build up theoretical thinking about something after they have experienced it themselves. For example, they can understand the concepts of swing, balance or gravity by experiencing them through active action – such as swinging, sliding, climbing or jumping (cf. ibid.). During these activities, in turn, the neuron network is formed in the brain, which is the basis for abstract thought processes without associated experience. This ability is becoming increasingly important for children in older years – for example, in mathematics lessons. Piaget divides the development of thought into stages, claiming that abstract thinking begins from the age of seven, when the mental action is no longer dependent on the reality of the outside world. From the age of eleven, thinking can then take place in the form of abstract considerations (cf. Piaget/Inhelder 1986, p. 11). So primary school age is the time in which abstract thinking develops and shapes. However, the neural connections do not persist if they are not also used. Unnecessary connections are reduced, while frequently used connections are strengthened and thus more efficient (cf. Pauen 2003, p. 45). It is therefore important to perform the movements and physical activities more often and again and again. Children do not have the goal of improving their brain structure, but enjoy the activity. Cognitive development is, so to speak, a positive by-product of the child's movement. The movement itself is also not consciously carried out, but by the natural, genetically determined urge to move (cf. Chapter 2.1).

2.3 Effect on physical condition

2.3.1 Motor

Motor skills include coordination, rhythm, speed, dexterity, strength, endurance and balance (cf. Frostig 1973, p. 12). Although many motor skills are developed within the first months of life (cf. Jasmund 2009, p. 36), at primary school age there is a real development boost of some motor skills, since during this time the prerequisites for complex movement sequences are already present and the cerebral cortex still has a very high plasticity, so that, for example, the coordination ability can be developed particularly well (cf. Schmidt 2015 , p. 341f). At primary school age, there is therefore a high development potential for motor skills. The skills can only be acquired through one's own activity, i.e. by doing it yourself (cf. Zimmer 2010, p. 29). This statement supports the description of the child as an "active designer of his development" (ibid., p. 28). Motor skills must be constantly challenged so that they can improve and develop (cf. Schmidt 2015, p. 342). The motor development correlates with the physical condition development, because a sprint requires, for example, the sufficient muscular, but also the corresponding coordinative prerequisites. Thus, motor skills develop in parallel with physical development and body conditions develop with the exercise of motor skills through physical activity. Thus, it becomes clear that the more a child moves, the better the motor performance develops. Physical activity therefore not only plays a major role in motor development, but is also indispensable for other areas of movement development.

Motorically clumsy children have an increased risk of accidents, whereas children with good motor development, for example, can intercept themselves much better with their arms when falling and thus prevent the impact with their head on the ground (cf. Kunz 1994, quoted from Röhr-Sendlmeier 2007, pp. 17-18). This statement was confirmed in a study in which children received a daily promotion of exercise of 15 minutes and showed a motor superiority over the children who did not receive the support after only eight weeks. In addition, the number of accidents among the sponsored children fell considerably (cf. ibid., p. 24). Of course, dexterity and balance are important not only in the event of a fall, but also in general for coping with everyday life. Thus, good motor development is an effective prevention of injuries, because it increases safety in situations with a risk of injury.

2.3.2 Physical health

The positive effect of physical activity on physical health is well known and can be clearly proven by medical research and studies. Adults know that sport is important for their physical condition, but children are often not yet aware of the relevance of exercise for their health (cf. Zimmer 2009, p. 56).

The effects of physical activity on health are manifold: Among other things, physical exertion improves the immune system, the performance of the cardiovascular system, physical fitness and muscles. According to Zimmer, children need daily exercise for healthy physical development (cf. ibid., p. 56f).

Furthermore, mobility is important for healthy joint function. At primary school age, mobility reaches its maximum performance value due to the flexible skeleton. The intensity of body stretching during this time determines how quickly mobility decreases again after primary school age (cf. Schmidt 2015, p. 342). So if there is a lot of physical activity and thus also a lot of stretching, the mobility is promoted and thus expands the possibilities for further sporting activity.

While muscles are still built up in preschool age through everyday play, strength training can already be done through sporting activity from primary school age. This is important, for example, for the condition, a good bone structure (high bone density) and for the avoidance of postural weaknesses (cf. ibid., p. 343).

Activity regarding physical endurance is also of great importance. This is a good prerequisite for all sporting activities. In addition, it can lower blood pressure, improve aerobic energy metabolism (energy production of the body from food) and the capillary system, which is responsible, among other things, for the oxygen supply of the muscles, and favorably influence the fat metabolism (cf. Schmidt 2015, p. 344). Here a good basis for a healthy development is created, which is not immediately visible from the outside, but causes a health improvement in the body. As mentioned, this basis enables prerequisites for further sporting activities. In this way, it can also be counteracted preventively against civilization diseases, such as diabetes or heart and vascular diseases. Good dexterity and endurance also suggest that children also enjoy movement, and thus the motivation for sporting activity is increased. So there is an interdependence between physical activity and health. These explanations and statements make clear the enormous relevance of exercise for physical health.

2.3.3 Consequences of lack of exercise

Lack of exercise is a major cause of various health problems (cf. Röhr-Sendlmeier 2007, p. 17). Many primary school children experience deficiency diseases of exercise (cf. Schmidt 2015, p. 341). The term lack of exercise disease shows that the health problems caused by lack of exercise could be prevented by sufficient physical activity. Effects of lack of exercise, such as obesity, postural problems, movement impairments and cardiovascular weaknesses, are becoming increasingly common in children (cf. Zimmer 2008, p. 23). These aspects carry risks and, depending on the condition, can create an extremely negative body feeling. Thus, normal everyday activities can be negatively influenced to a large extent. If these developments are not stopped, further serious problems are foreseeable: Postural disorders, for example, can quickly cause intervertebral disc damage or spinal deformations (cf. Nething et al. 2006, p. 43). Obesity is also particularly risky, as it can cause many other health problems even in childhood (cf. Pachinger 2015, p. 5f), such as high blood pressure, lipid metabolism disorders and diabetes (cf. Robert Koch Institute 2008, p. 41). At the same time, these factors in turn lead to a reduction in movement, as obesity greatly complicates the positive development of physical endurance. This can create a "vicious circle" in which obesity and lack of exercise favor each other. These diseases usually do not "grow together" automatically in adulthood, but rather tend to become chronic and to impair health more and more with advancing age, for example through the development of obesity (cf. Röbel et al. 2006, p. 87). It therefore becomes clear that the long-term consequences of these diseases are very large and can severely impair the quality of life in adulthood.

Furthermore, lack of exercise also negatively affects motor development. Poor engine development in turn leads to an increased risk of accidents (see Chapter 3.2.1). It can be seen that the consequences of lack of exercise are negative in many ways and have a wide range.

2.4 Movement and social development

Children need contact with other children in order to develop socially. Through living together and interacting with each other, they learn to give in and to assert themselves, to argue and to forgive themselves, to assert themselves and to subordinate themselves, to share and to receive (cf. Zimmer 2009, p. 34). Accordingly, these social interactions can not only be taught theoretically, but must also be experienced by the child himself and thus also internalized. For these practical experiences, the game and the competition in the game create adequate conditions.


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How important is exercise for primary school children? Impact on child development and well-being in the digital media age
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André Wiebe (Author), 2018, How important is exercise for primary school children? Impact on child development and well-being in the digital media age, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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