All parents want their kids to live active and healthy lifestyles – but in the age of streaming services, smartphones and a seemingly infinite number of time-wasting apps, getting children up and moving is a whole lot easier said than done.
That’s why more kids than ever are slipping into sedentary lifestyles, and it’s wreaking havoc on their health. And now, with concerns about COVID-19 seemingly ever-present, fitness and general health are more important than ever.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (1), we are in the midst of an irrefutable global obesity crisis – and it’s hitting children particularly hard. More than 41 million children under the age of five are now classed as overweight or obese, and this can go on to cause a lot of serious health problems later in life.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and even certain types of cancer can all be traced back to childhood obesity, and obesity is seen as a major risk factor for complications from COVID.
But believe it or not, unhealthy lifestyles don’t just impact a child’s future health. They also hurt academic performance.
Fortunately, there’s something parents and kids can do to prevent all this. Countless scientific studies conducted over the last decade have proven undeniable links between a child’s physical health and their ability to perform well in school – particularly around fitness, participation in sports and eating a balanced diet.
The Proof is in the Pudding: Active Kids Perform Better in School
After school sports aren’t just a place to put your children to keep them busy. According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)(2), students who take part in regular physical activity are proven to have better grades, better school attendance and behave better in school.
Likewise, increased physical activity is scientifically linked to improved cognitive performance, improved standardized test scores and overall education outcomes.
In 2017, scientists from Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (3) in Cuenca, Spain conducted a landmark study in which they assessed the impact of physical activity on overall academic performance across 10,000 children. The team looked at a range of different exercise programs to see how participation affected each participant’s educational journey – and the results were staggering.
Not only did the study prove that physical activity appears to keep kids focused on their work, but it went on to find exercise made a particularly large impact on a child’s ability in reading and math.
The science behind this enhanced performance is pretty straightforward. When kids exercise, the activity increases their cerebral blood flow – adding to the body’s supply of oxygen and nutrients to increase neuronal connectivity.
A similar 2017 study conducted by a team at the University of Granada (4) took that research a step further by establishing a link between a child’s cardiovascular fitness, their motor ability and the amount of grey matter inside of their brains that are responsible for helping them to learn and stay organized.
Regular exercise can also benefit kids by:
- Improving their memory function
- Decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Making bones stronger
- Improving self-confidence
- Producing higher levels of endorphins
Bearing that in mind, it’s not too surprising the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2) found that of those high school students who do not participate on a sports team, a whopping 60% get mostly Ds and Fs in school.
Healthy Kids Eat Better
Making sure your child is positioned to do well in school isn’t just about encouraging them to get physically active. Parents must also be sure their kids are eating foods that are part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Again, science doesn’t lie.
CDC research has found that students who lack adequate consumption of healthy foods tend to have lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness. Worse yet, if kids don’t eat enough of the good stuff they’re also statistically more likely to be unable to focus or have to repeat a grade.
On the flip side, students who eat well at home or participate in a sanctioned school breakfast program are more likely to do well on standardized tests, are less likely to miss school and they score higher academic grades than their peers.
Researchers have also highlighted the shocking dangers of consuming too many sugary drinks and their impact on academic performance. According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2), 47% of high school students who admit to drinking at least one can or bottle of soda per day get mostly Ds and Fs in school. Only 22% of regular soda drinkers say they get mostly As in class. Read that again and let it sink in.
It is critical that kids eat (and drink) as healthily as possible, as regularly as possible. Not merely for the sake of their physical health and preventing obesity, but also to enable them to perform better academically. If you need a hand working on your children’s diet, the CDC has plenty of helpful resources for parents online (5).
How Can Parents Encourage Kids to Get Active?
Ok. So science proves that active and healthy kids do better in school, but how, with our busy lives and packed schedules, do we make it happen? As budget cuts have impacted physical education programs across the country, it’s becoming increasingly important for parents to take a bigger role in helping their children remain active.
So, how can you motivate your kids to get healthy? The best way is to make it fun, and there are loads of activities you can try with your children:
Bike to school. This is a great way to add a few minutes of additional exercise into your child’s routine, and they’ll also love the extra independence.
Try team sports. Getting on the field and joining a team can add a huge element of socialness and fun to exercise while teaching your child the value of teamwork.
Check out martial arts classes. Martial arts classes are great for after-school! Not only do they get kids active, but they also encourage self-confidence, mindfulness, and discipline.
The science doesn’t lie; active and healthy kids get better results in the classroom. Right now, your child can try martial arts for FREE.
Sign up now and see for yourself how martial arts can play a vital role in better grades, self-confidence and overall health.
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