Monday, May 5, 2014

Healthy Living = Better Learning!

"The greatest wealth is health." ~Virgil

Did you know that a child’s dietary, sleep and exercise habits can have a significant effect on academic achievement? As parents, it is our primary responsibility to ensure that our children arrive to school physically ready to learn.

Studies have shown that poor eating habits can cause problems with focus and concentration, energy level and mood. In addition, children who do not regularly receive nutrient rich foods frequently experience illnesses, causing them to miss school and struggle to keep up in class.  Children of every age should eat balanced meals, rich with brain building nutrients including omega 3 oils, protein, and complex carbohydrates. Consider serving ‘brain boosters’ like eggs, salmon, tuna, peanut butter, lean meats or iron rich meat alternatives, whole grain breads, steel cut oatmeal, berries, beans, colorful vegetables (especially leafy green varieties) fruits, and vitamin D rich dairy products like cheese, milk and yogurt. Avoid ‘brain drainers’ like sugary processed foods and drinks. Don’t forget to serve lots of water! Water is essential for optimum brain function. Talk to your children about the importance of eating healthy food and encourage cooperation by allowing them to participate in selecting and preparing food.  

Sleep, particularly a lack of quality sleep can also take a toll on student achievement. Insufficient sleep can cause significant problems with focus, memory, behavior, mood and the overall wellbeing of children. Recent studies have even linked lack of sleep to obesity in children. According to the National Sleep Foundation, school aged children (ages 5-12) need 10-11 hours of sleep daily for optimum brain function. Teens need 8.5-9.5 hours. Sleep quality is just as important as sleep quantity. Strive to maintain a routine that ensures an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep in a comfortable and quiet environment.

Exercise can also affect academic performance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), citing a growing body of research suggests,"physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior" [i]  Children should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.  If your child’s school or extra-curricular activities do not provide daily exercise opportunities, make regular exercise a fun family activity.

Developing and maintaining these core healthy living habits will serve our children through a lifetime of learning!

2014 © Gardener Parenting Consultants, LLC

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The association between school based physical activity, including physical  education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010. 

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