The Joy & Benefit of Movement

Written by: Jen Stewart

April 26, 2023

It is well documented even small amounts of physical activity can benefit us physically, literally adding to our lifespan. What is less documented now is how much movement can benefit our mental well being. One sunny day, two Digital Learning Coaches Amy Stevens and Jen Stewart took a walk to discuss how movement affects us personally and professionally (click here and come along with us!). We discuss how “Defeating the sedentary life isn’t as simple as a few tips and tricks, but there are a few things anyone can do to move in the right direction.” The Mayo Clinic along with how allowing our students to move about the classroom has created a better learning space, and how making time move during after school hours for ourselves has made the last couple of difficult years less trying and more healthful, both mentally and physically.

The CDC says “Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.” According to the book, The Joy of Movement, when our body experiences moderately exhausting physical activity for more than twenty minutes, our brain releases a chemical called endocannabinoids. This chemical is the source of the so-called “runner’s high.” Not only does it boost our mood, it helps lessen pain and it fights anxiety and depression.

“Not only does it boost our mood, it helps lessen pain, and it fights anxiety and depression.”

Before we laced up our sneakers, we collaboratively created a shared note that was a “must discuss” list and listed our resources. Questions that we jotted down for discussion range from “how do you define movement? Is it busyness without thinking or does movement drive you from within?” to “how can someone get started with incorporating movement in their classroom?” These questions along with a new GoPro and LOTS of inspiration from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Joy of Movement created an energetic and insightful discussion as we got the wiggles out.

Key points we discussed along our 30 min walk along the Beckenholdt Park path are:

  • Age does not determine movement: (instagram post of 100+ lady dancing) & older students truly embrace movement integrated into their classroom lessons…especially when there’s a management system upheld.
  • Born to move: We were born to MOVE!
  • Communicate with your community: Because when you reach out to your community to share your movement accomplishment–a community of love and encouragement grows. “When you move, I move, We move.”
  • Something to Ponder:   Is movement a way to stay busy or is it a way to drive you from within? For Jen – It’s a stress release. For Amy – Movement is leading a class to provide a space dedicated for movement and breathwork. Amy says: “Personally I love to eliminate noise and after a stressful day ‘I label it, honor it, love it and let it go’”
  • Is movement just another goal to set? The professional day already seems heavy enough. You may be thinking, I don’t need another goal. Consider thinking about how small achievements are key.
  • Science of movement: Our amazing bodies create chemicals that provide good feelings…endorphins, and when your blood is pumping you probably feel elevated!
  • Radical Decisions in Amy’s Classroom: She was given the choice to change up the furniture in her classroom. Switching out old, tradition looking chairs for stability balls led to observed physical alertness and deeper connection to the learning that was taking place while moving. In Amy’s opinion, It also helped with behavior and focus redirection for students to get back on track.
  • Back to Community: You are not alone. Jen shares that when she talks to her community about how she moved that day, it opened a line to talk to people. Movement brings people together….blurring the lines of geography.
  • Closing rings: Regardless of wearable technology, goals are important but if you don’t meet them, “allow your goals to be a point of reflection”. Ways to connect: You can be “watch friends” with each other. Encourage others to “get that stand goal.” Reflect on how today went and then use it to plan for tomorrow!
  • Don’t Forget: 4th graders get into the National Parks for free!
  • What about in the Classroom? There are multiple methods for driving movement in the classroom (stations, moving whole group lessons, etc)
  • Do you schedule time for movement? Find ways to move together (work together outside on clean up to engineering #snowman) It’s free to move outside and together. Start small because your body will give you answers.
  • What’s your why? Children are our why – and you “the leader of their classroom” are deserving of feeling the movement!

Key points from the book include:

  • Born to Move: Movement is the only reason you have a brain.
  • Movement and Brain Health: Move for your mood. Born to Move in Nature! Community Moves are vital!
  • Proprioception: “To grasp one’s own self.”
  • Muscles are Magical: Myokines THE BEST MOVEMENT ADVICE EVER!
  • In addition, research has shown that exercise makes people more social. Those long walks with your friend on the trail where you seem to talk and talk and talk? You’ve become an extrovert through the magic of exercise!

Regardless if you lace up your sneakers or roll out your mat, we encourage you to listen and reflect with us on how joyful movement can be. Listen in as you prepare for a stretch session or head out for a walk, jog or run. Note the key points discussed along our route and feel free to comment with your thoughts. Screenshot the image below and share your week of fitness…..We’d love to hear from you! #joyfulmovement

In conclusion, keep moving…not only for yourself personally, but also for the learning environment that you create for your students. Quotes: I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~Soren Kierkegaard And even if they don’t find what they’re looking for, isn’t it enough to be out walking together in the sunlight ~Jess Walter



Please login or register to claim PGPs.

Alternatively, you may use the PGP Request Form if you prefer to not register an account.


  • Jen Stewart

    Jen Stewart is currently teaching a brand new, project based STEM class at Maxwell Intermediate School. This is her 24th year of teaching. Prior to this year she taught computer science, social studies, and language arts. Jen is a long-time Nearpod PioNear and a level three Nearpod Certified Educator. She is also an Apple Teacher. She has led many PD sessions around the Midwest on using technology to increase student engagement and learning.

Send this to a friend