Why Being Active May Help Your Child Succeed in School

Why-Being-Active-May-Help-Your-Child-Succeed-in-SchoolThis month, I welcome Dr. Luigi Gratton, vice president, worldwide product marketing at Herbalife. He also works with the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA, the university I taught at for nearly 30 years. Dr. Gratton and I have the opportunity to interact often, and I’ve come to respect him as both a medical expert and friend. I’m pleased to say he’ll be contributing regularly to the Heart Health Initiative, writing about health and nutrition, and bringing insights from his background as both a triathlete and medical doctor. Welcome, Dr. Gratton!

Most kids have been back to school for a few weeks now. Reading, writing and math have replaced pools and picnics, and one question lingers in the minds of parents around the world: How can I help my child succeed academically?

The answer is more than just studying hard. Research shows that physical activity may be a contributor to whether or not kids succeed in academics.

One study found that academic lessons that included physical activity—such as accompanying a lesson with a song that involves jumping, spinning and hand motions—has a positive impact on both body mass index and academic achievement. And a review of 50 studies  showed that there may be a positive correlation between physical activity and academic performance.

What is causing this improvement? Among many other benefits like improved energy levels and focus, physical activity promotes Nitric Oxide (NO) production. NO is a molecule best known for supporting heart health, and it also supports healthy brain function.

These findings mean one thing: It’s a good idea to get your kid moving. Here are four ideas for helping encourage movement:

1. Have your child bike or walk to school

If you live within a mile from school, consider replacing the car or bus with wheels or feet. Join your young child in the commute, or, assuming your area is safe, allow your older child to bike or walk with a friend. Join him on the first few trips to and from school to make sure he knows how to get around safely. Not only will your child get more activity during the day, but you’ll also be encouraging lifelong habits for healthy living.

2. Encourage activity at home

While you don’t have a lot of control over what happens in the classroom or during recess, you can work movement into your home life. After school, encourage your child to spend time being active. It doesn’t matter whether you enroll her in soccer or simply let him play with neighbor kids in the cul-de-sac—the point is to get moving. Any type of physical activity supports NO production and healthy brain function.

3. Stand more

As your child does homework, encourage her to stand. This can be done easily at a high kitchen counter or using a standing desk. Standing more during the day supports healthy blood flow, energy levels and brain function.

4. Limit screen time

Kids are tired at the end of a long school day, but that doesn’t mean they need to sit in front of the television or computer. Research from the Iowa State University showed that limited screen time has its benefits: kids get more sleep, do better in school, behave better and experience a number of other benefits. When your kids get home, keep them moving: enlist help with dinner, encourage outdoor play or enjoy a healthy snack—while standing—to discuss the day. After dinner, spend time together during a family walk.

With help and encouragement, your child can support heart and brain health, simply by moving more. The next step? Better nutrition. For some tips on keeping your school-age child eating well, read, “4 Tips for a Heart-Healthy School Lunch (That Your Kids Will Actually Eat).”

How do you encourage your child to move more?

Luigi-Gratton-HeadshotAs vice president, worldwide product marketing, Luigi Gratton, M.D., M.P.H., is responsible for setting the overall vision and direction of Herbalife’s global product strategy. Gratton, a physician specialist in family medicine and clinical physician at the Center for Human Nutrition in the Risk Factor Obesity Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA),* earned an undergraduate degree in science, a master’s in public health and he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical nutrition from UCLA.*

*Titles are for identification purposes only. The University of California does not endorse specific products or services as a matter of policy.

Sources: 

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743511000491

[2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743511000557

[3] http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2014/03/31/parentalmonitoring

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