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How Nutrition, Activity Level affect Academic Achievement

separator Nutrition, exercise and academic achievement. Do these three things seem inter-related? Maybe not, but more and more studies have shown that children who have good nutrition and who have a reasonable level of activity actually do better in school.

There are currently 9 million overweight schoolchildren. This number has tripled since 1980. For the most part, children who are obese have this problem not because they eat too much healthy food, but because they eat too much food of poor nutritional value.

Nutrition and academic achievement
Here are some examples of the way that nutrition affects school performance:

  • Kids who don’t get enough iron have trouble paying attention, are irritable and tired. They tend to have poor results in reading and vocabulary.
  • Fourth graders who had the lowest amounts of protein in their diets had the lowest achievement scores.
  • Children who don’t eat breakfast—even well-nourished children—have lower speed and accuracy on tests of cognitive performance.

Exercise and academic achievement
Studies have shown that:

  • Students who have the highest fitness levels have higher SAT scores.
  • Academic achievement improves even when time is taken away from academics and replaced with physical education.
  • Very strong physical activity programs can increase concentration, improve math, reading and writing scores and it can improve disruptive behavior.
  • There is some evidence that aerobic activity helps improve memory.

Nutrition and exercise: implications even beyond health
Many of us have been aware that children who are overweight or obese and inactive are at higher risk for developing diabetes and heart disease at an earlier age. These are reason enough to make big changes in the family lifestyle. But knowing that academic achievement is also tied to nutrition and fitness level means that nutrition and exercise can even have an effect on a child’s success in adulthood in terms of a productive career and fulfillment of potential.

The whole family plays a role
Kids can’t make big lifestyle changes on their own. It’s up to parents to set the tone for success for the whole family. The following article gives you practical, simple advice that can help your whole family.

Action for Healthy Kids: “The Role of Sound Nutrition and Physical Activity in Academic Achievement,”; National Institute for Healthcare Management: “Childhood Obesity: Advancing Effective Prevention and Treatment.”
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