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Want your kids to get better grades? Get them moving...

Can exercise strengthen your mind and make you smarter? The answer is yes! Sitting at a computer all day whether at work or studying for school for extended periods can have negative effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and mood. The good news is that exercise can help you work and study more productively as there is a positive relationship between physical exercise and academic and work performance.

According to a recent study, exercise can help you:

  • Increase your attention span

  • Improve working memory

  • Make better decisions

  • Solve problems more effectively and efficiently

Even more importantly, exercise produces neurobiological effects to improve the capacity to learn as it contributes to increasing the volume of the hippocampus (a part of the brain associated with memory and learning). It also protects the brain from aging and promotes neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) in the same way that daily meditation does.

As a parent, you might wish there was a quick fix for your child's poor grades. Tutors and incentive charts can be part of the solution, but there might be another way to improve academic performance. Boosting your child's fitness with regular exercise might help their achievements in the classroom. Kids who are physically active also tend to be able to focus on any given task for a longer period of time-a skill that definitely comes in handy when they encounter a tough math problem.

Regular physical activity increases confidence and self-esteem in all areas of life, including academics. Exercise also reduces anxiety and stress in both adults and children. While some of the effects of physical activity are immediate, the longer-term mental health benefits are even greater. In addition to increasing confidence, creativity and concentration right away, over time, exercise can increase students’ neuroplasticity, allowing them to form new pathways in their brains and become faster learners. It also increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and releases neurotransmitters and neurotrophins that support higher learning and thinking.

Instead of focusing on “exercise”, try family activities that naturally incorporate physical activity. Things like exploring new parks, hiking, walks by the beach, biking together, dancing, swimming, skateboarding, jumping rope, or playing ball can be effective ways to combine family time with being active. Organized sports or classes like gymnastics or dance can also be a great way to learn new skills while having fun.

It’s recommended that kids aged 6 and up should get 60-minutes of physical activity per day and preschoolers should get about 3 hours of activity each day. This is often broken up into smaller chunks throughout the day. For example, walking to school, P.E, recess or time on the playground, free play, and family time in the evening can quickly add up.

If 60 minutes seems overwhelming, remember that a few minutes of physical activity is better than nothing. Start with a small goal (an evening walk or family activity 2 times per week, for example) and then work up from there. It can also be effective to schedule a few minutes of physical activity at a certain time that works for your family, like right after school or after dinner. When it’s built into your schedule it’s easier to make a habit.

When kids are active during the day, activities like bedtime and homework time actually become easier to manage.

Hope this helps

Lifestylist Health & Wellness

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