With school just a few days away from starting again for another year, what better time to get your child off to a great start by exploring the benefits of daily physical activity and improved brainpower. Yes, that is correct. Research suggests that a sound body provides a solid foundation for academic success.
Children need a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day as recommended by the National Institutes of Health. Physical activity appears to cause the release of nerve growth factors in the brain, acting somewhat like “fertilizer” or “Miracle-Gro” for the brain. Exercise keeps nerve cells healthy and helps them bind together, which is the basis for learning.
So, what does this physical activity program look like?
Encourage your child to join a sports team or try a new physical activity.
Take a walk after a family meal or a bike ride after homework is done.
Instead of watching TV or heading to a movie, choose an activity that requires moving such as laser tag, bowling or miniature golf.
Provide children with toys that encourage physical activity such as balls, jump ropes, hula hoops or Frisbees.
Limit TV/computer time and keep these electronics out of your child’s bedroom.
Once you get your student moving, remember to keep nutrition a part of the plan as well. Drink plenty of water before, during and after activities. Children need to drink at least six 8 ounce cups of water per day. An additional 8 ounces is needed for every half hour of strenuous activity. For longer activities or when children don’t drink enough water, diluted 100 percent fruit juice or sports drinks can help to increase fluid intake.
Breakfast is an all-important meal for children as well. Consider serving whole grain cereals or muffins made with fruit, such as bananas, blueberries or raisins. For a snack before or after physical activity, whole grain crackers and part-skim mozzarella cheese (string cheese), peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread or buns, trail mix and containers of cut up fruit and sliced vegetables with a low-fat dip make good options.
The health benefits of exercise across the lifespan have been well-documented. Not only will our children benefit from improved cognitive functioning but we as adults will, too. Get out and enjoy the last bit of summer we have and boost your child’s and your brain power as well.