There is growing evidence that shows good nutrition and regular physical activity can have a major impact on the behaviours, attitudes and long-term development of teenagers.
When you combine this with the fact that teens spend the majority of their waking hours in a classroom, it makes sense that what they are eating, drinking and doing plays an important part in their success at school. Here’s why:
Several studies have shown that nutritional status can directly affect the cognitive ability of teenagers, and that a higher quality diet is associated with better performances on exams and some improvement in a student’s academic performance.
Access to nutrition that incorporates protein, carbohydrates, amino acids and glucose has been shown to improve students’ energy levels and also improve their perception, intuition and reasoning. Conversely, nutritional deficiencies in zinc, iron, vitamin B and Omega-3 can affect concentration and learning abilities, and diets high in saturated fats can also negatively impact the brain, influencing learning and memory.
There are also links between nutrition and behaviour. Access to a decent breakfast in particular, can enhance a student’s psychosocial well-being, whereas poor nutrition can leave teenagers susceptible to illness or lead to headaches and stomach problems, resulting in school absences.
Physical activity has been proven to have an impact on attitude, behavior and cognitive skills, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. In some cases, regular physical exercise can also lead to the development of increased brain functioning (due to the increased oxygen flow) in the areas of learning and memory.
There is also evidence that a consistent amount of regular exercise improves classroom behavior, lowers absenteeism and increases a student’s social connectedness.
Exercise can also improve mood, help you sleep better, better manage stress and have more energy, which all lead to positive outcomes, including better school results.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean just playing sport and it doesn’t have to be competitive. Encourage your teen to try different activities that will still get them moving like walking the dog, throwing a Frisbee, or simply vacuuming their room (OK, a long shot, but it’s worth a try).