How to Sharpen Mental Focus and Reduce Sickness

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Magazines scream at us to eat healthy and exercise and celebrities want us to try their 7-minute exercise videos that reduce stress and keep us fit. We are bombarded with messages to exercise because it does more than make you “bathing suit ready,” it plays a vitally important role in helping us concentrate, focus, think clearly, and feel good.

actionNumerous studies show the positive effects of regular exercise and healthy eating. Livestrong.com summarizes these findings for us:

  • “Studies show that physical activity contributes to improved academic performance. Regular activity during the day is directly associated with higher concentration levels and more directed, composed behavior. Group physical activities can also help students socially, which can lead to higher levels of leadership, community engagement and altruism.”
  • The physical exertion of exercising can help kids think more clearly and be better focused. The skills learned through exercise strengthen coordination, assist in everyday movement, and increases the self-esteem. Exercise also produces endorphins in the brain, the ‘feel good’ hormones. These hormones help improve mood and outlook. This can help a student feel cheerful, relaxed, and ready to take on or learn new things.”
  • “Spending time doing physical activity can help kids improve test scores. Also, kids who are active tend to thrive not only academically, but socially as well. Kids who are physically active are less likely to smoke tobacco, sleep better, are less anxious, and less likely to suffer from depression.”
  • “Regular exercise contributes to heart health and promotes muscle and bone development. It also reduces the risk for diabetes, heart disease, asthma, sleep disorders and other illnesses.”

Basically, exercise improves mood, reduces anxiety and depression, lowers risk for heart disease, improves focus and memory retention, raises self-esteem and self-confidence, improves social skills, boosts immunity, lowers stress, increases energy and alertness, raises test scores, and increases mental performance. Wow, right! Exercise is critical to feeling well, yet it can be a challenge to get done. While it’s easy to stay active during the summer, colder weather makes it hard to get outside and get moving. The American Heart Association suggests at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day—no matter the season.

Here’s some quick and convenient ways to help your student(s) stay active this fall.

Remember, time spent in exercise will directly benefit self-esteem and time spent doing homework.

walkTaking a walk

Putting foot to pavement can lower your stress, help you think through a problem, or just give your brain a rest. The movement of walking can be cathartic (theraputic). So, choose some of your favorite music and put the earbuds in! Remember move = destress

Desk Stretches

These are a great way to get a little blood flowing and work out kinks or boredom from sitting for a longer period of time. Check out this link, where Brain Gyms, are listed that can help sweep those mind and muscle cobwebs away.

Study skill 20:5:5

Get a timer! Set it for 20 minutes and focus only (no distractions!) on your work. Once, the timer goes off you have 5 minutes to relax, snack, go to the bathroom, check your phone, whatever. Finish the segment with 5 minutes of movement – walking around, 50 sit-ups, 3 sets of 20 jumping jacks, toe touches – whatever gets the blood pumping a little. Then, set the timer for 20 minutes and do the cycle again!

gymJoin a gym

Many parents bring their kids and put them in the play area—which is great if they are younger. However, if your student is older, you can introduce them to “your side of the gym.” Most gyms have an age policy, so be sure to check what yours is, and some require students to take a half hour intro gym class. In this class, your student will be shown where all the equipment is, how to safely use it, and proper gym etiquette. If there is no intro class, be sure to show your student how to use the equipment and be courteous to all members. Now, you can set some goals, challenge each other, and keep each other accountable. Take a class together, lift together, or do sprints on the treadmill.

Challenge each other

Challenge each other to jump rope tournaments, buy some mini-trampolines, or try a “rebound” workout. If you have a basement, that’s a perfect place to do these activities once snow comes. If not, clear a space in your living room.

ballPlay active games

Instead of playing a board game, try an active game like charades or Twister. These games are fun, and they get the blood pumping. Invite friends over and have a mini competition with three-legged races, sack races, and hopscotch (with masking tape on a wood floor).

Remember, physical exertion is especially important for high-energy students. It helps them burn off extra energy so they can focus and relax on other tasks. It can also help them perform better cognitively. If your student is high-energy or has ADHD or another learning challenge, your student might need physical activity breaks throughout the day. Start the day with a morning walk, kick a ball around at lunch, and go for a bike ride in the evening. The regular exertion can help your child and sets a good routine for the family.

For the best double whammy boost, couple exercise with healthy eating. Healthy eating boosts the positive effects of exercise. It helps your body heal faster, react better, and retain and recall information quicker. It can also help curb emotional roller coasters. For kids with learning challenges, the things they put in their mouths hold even more power and can greatly affect their attention, acting out, sustainability in school, and more (less brain inflammation results in better behavior and focus). We have written a few articles about healthy eating. You can find them HERE and HERE.

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