Do you want to improve your cognitive health? Exercise! A recent study from the University of Illinois found that those who were more physically active had better cognitive health. The study also included nutrition. The men in the study were asked to workout and to consume a nutritional beverage that contained protein, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, lutein, phospholipids, vitamin D, and B vitamins. At the end of the trial period, those who were more physically active and who consumed the nutritional beverage showed an increase in cognitive function.
Over the years, there have been several studies that looked at the impact of physical activity on cognitive function (source). As a teacher, I have actually seen it in the classroom. Kids who are more physically active tend to do better in school. According to the source linked above, physical exercise can be a positive gene modulator that protects against future cognitive decline.
Dr. David Perlmutter often lists physical exercise as a useful tool to improve cognitive function. When asked what one of the best things people can do to protect their brains as they age is, he says to buy a pair of sneakers and get moving. I personally love these Nike sneakers.
As I stated above, kids who eat better and are physically active tend to have better cognition and attention span in the classroom. Of course there are exceptions with learning disabilities and other cognitive impairment factors. But overall, kids who ate nutrient-dense foods and exercised regularly are able to attend to tasks better and complete them on time in school. Sometimes I wonder if a child's ADHD can be improved or reversed altogether if they just ate better and got moving more. There are actually studies being done to look at this.
Parents, if you want your kid to do better in school, make sure they are eating well and staying active. This will also help them combat future cognitive decline. And please know that you cannot always rely on their PE classes to keep them active. Some schools do not require daily PE. I think they should. But on average, the elementary schools I've worked at only require PE two times per week at 30 minute intervals. Sixty minutes of forced physical activity each week is not enough for any child. High schools aren't that much better. Most are on block schedules now, so students are only taking PE every other day. And they are only required to complete two years of PE for graduation requirements. That's definitely not enough. Don't get me started on school lunches. I'll write a separate post about those in the future.
Please make sure that your child finds time outside of school to be physically active if you want them to improve their cognitive health. The same goes for adults. Especially those who sit at desks all day. Eat well and find time to be active, no matter if it's a brisk walk with your dog around the block, a fun activity like paddle boarding, or a sweaty resistance session in the gym. Just get moving and choose good foods, and your brain will thank you!
When we combine proper nutrition with physical activity, cognitive health greatly improves for most individuals.Nutritional and physical needs vary from person to person. This is why I often recommend working with someone if you're not sure what your needs are.
What are some ways you enjoy eating better and staying physically active? Have you noticed brain benefits?