Making time for exercise is important for your child’s physical health, but exercise can boost brain performance, too. And with the new school year upon us, that means playtime is just as important for the kiddos as homework time (and we aren’t talking video games).
It is recommended children get 60 minutes of physical activity each day for proper health, but with PE programs and budgets getting slashed across the country, now more than ever it’s up to parents to make sure their kids hit that all-important hour a day.
Studies show that kids who get more physical activity score better on tests. Exercise enlarges the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that handles attention span and focus. Exercise will not only help children focus, but it also increases energy, helping them to focus all day long instead of nodding off during afternoon lessons.
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Exercise helps children sleep better, which is when they commit all the things they learned in school that day to memory. The more and better-quality sleep they receive, the more information they retain in their brains. School-aged children should get at least 10 hours of shut-eye a night, according to the Centers for Disease Control, while high-schoolers can get away with a little less.
If your child’s grades have been suffering due to behavior, he or she may need a little more playtime. Aside from a few breaks, kids have to sit quietly most of the day in school. The younger they are, the harder that is, and the more they need that time to burn off access energy and blow off steam.
Exercise helps trigger endorphins, which improve the prioritizing functions of the brain. After exercise, the ability to prioritize improves, allowing your child to block out distractions and better concentrate in class. Beyond that, exercise also alleviates stress, which could be causing your child to lose focus easily.
You may scoff that children have no stress, but just because their stressors aren’t the same as an adult’s doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging. Social pressures, school and after-school commitments, tests and grades can be weighing your children down more than you think, and their grades may suffer.
Eating a healthful diet is also important for brain power and focus. Make sure your children eat breakfast for all-day energy — they don’t call it the most important meal for nothing — and get in their 60 minutes of physical activity. Young kids just need to run, jump and play; as they get older they can do more structured exercise like team sports or group fitness classes. But above all, it needs to be fun and something they look forward to.
Kelly Turner is a freelance fitness writer. Follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.