The Power of Physical Activity: Boosting Teen School Performance and Mental Fitness
Did you know there is a powerful link between physical activity, school performance and mental fitness?
One of my fondest memories as a child was running with my father. At age 39, he finally kicked a nicotine habit that he had tried to beat for many years. He did it by taking up running. When he started, he ran in place in our basement for just a few minutes and got so overheated that he would come up stairs and stick his head in the refrigerator. Eventually he took his runs outside and I began to tag along with him. We both became enamored with it and began running full distance marathons. I have run 24 marathons and have since taken up biking.
Physical activity has always been a life saver for me, being a bit on the anxious side with problems relaxing and maintaining focus in academic and career pursuits. Runner’s high is a real thing! Exercise (particularly cardiovascular) releases endorphins which are the body’s natural “happy chemicals” and reduces levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Exercise also boosts production of serotonin and norepinephrine which help regulate mood and prevent mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit disorder.
Exercise has also been linked to higher grade point averages in school. Here’s how it works. When we exercise carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which are sugars. Glucose is literally food for the brain. Regular exercise creates a storage of glucose in two parts of the brain critical for memory and learning-the hippocampus and the neocortex. Teens need an hour of physical activity most every day. Unfortunately only 3 in 10 meet these guidelines and have been compared in research to 60 year olds in terms of exercise habits. We have to get these kids moving!
Here are a few tips to get your kids in motion:
- Start with small changes
- Make it more fun than intense
- Focus on health, not weight loss
- Find activities they like
- Find activities you can do together
- Model good exercise habits for your child.
In a fast paced digital world, it is easy to forget how important body movement is for school performance and maintaining mental fitness. Check out the links below for more information and additional tips on getting your child moving.
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