Regular activity may improve academic performance and promote feelings of wellbeing in children and adolescents.

Often when we think of the benefits of physical activity, we think below the head. It can help build muscle, maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, etc. However, physical activity is not just for the body, it’s for the mind, too. Recent studies are showing a positive association between physical activity, feelings of wellbeing, and cognition in adults and children. In fact, even just a 10 minute walk increases mental alertness, energy, and improves mood.

How does it work? There are many theories about how physical activity can have such an impact. One hypothesis is that it increases blood flow to the brain, providing it with the oxygen and glucose it needs to function at its best. Another theory is that it builds new brain cells specifically in the region linked with memory. Physical activity also causes the release of endorphins that block pain and cause a positive feeling that reduces stress. 

So whether it‘s more oxygen, new brain cells, improved mood, reduced stress, or a combination of all four, it appears that physical activity can help children learn and improve their academic performance.

 With the physical and mental benefits of exercise, it’s surprising how easy it can be to make it a last priority for the whole family. Help your kids and yourself reap the many benefits of exercise by putting it at the top of your list. Set a good example and make it fun! Look for opportunities to be more active as a family. Walk to school, ride bikes to visit a neighbor, go on hikes, or play sports. Remember, even short amounts can have big benefits, so get your family moving and watch those grades and moods go up! 

Megan Ostler MS, RDN
iFit Dietitian