by Dr. Vance Kruszewski MMNN Contributor

School is in! How do you get the most out of your studies? Of course hitting the books, doing your work and attending class is important. However, what you do outside of studying and class also helps you make the grade! Physical exercise, eating properly and getting enough sleep are very important too!

Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It also releases a protein called NTF (neurotrophic factor). NTF from the brain encourages better function and the growth of new brain cells, especially in regions of the brain used for learning. Neuroscientists have actually noticed that areas of the brain used for memory and attention are actually larger in children that are more active! This helps to explain why schools have noticed that students do better when they are more active.

I am so pleased to see the success of programs such as Doctor’s Nova Scotia that introduces running and regular exercise to students. Many First Nation Schools across Nova Scotia began getting involved this past spring and hundreds of First Nation students became more active and participated in running events. It has been a fun way to promote activity. The program was such a success that it will be continued this fall and has plans on how to expand.

Positive habits can be reinforced at a young age and help the children stay active and healthy as adults. The children have also been motivating other community members to get more active. Adults can also get involved and set an example that adults can be active as well! The activity can play a role in preventing many chronic diseases and help improve our quality of lives!

Eating the right food also helps the brain to work better! Make sure to eat foods that are high in omega-3 and six fatty acids such as fish, eggs, seeds and nuts. Also, include foods containing high levels of anti-oxidants such as blueberries, fruits and vegetables.

Eating properly also helps your child to stay focused, avoid emotional outbursts and regulate behaviour. Make sure that your child eats breakfast and has frequent, small meals throughout the day to help maintain blood glucose levels. Steer away from food with much added sugar that causes a rush in insulin and then subsequent crashes in blood-glucose levels.

Also, make sure to allow the child to get a good sleep. The brain is busy processing the day’s activities by repeating patterns and strengthening bridges between nerve cells while we sleep! So sleeping helps us to learn and remember. Research has shown that children that have a better, un-disturbed sleep have less problems at school! Turn off computers, televisions and related screens well before bed to allow children to relax and calm their minds enough to sleep.

Of course, this advice applies to adults as well!

You may contact me by e-mail at vancek@ns.sympatico.ca, phone at work at the Millbrook First Nations Health Centre (1-902-895-9468) or by mail to 812 Willow Street, Truro, Nova Scotia, B4P 1A3.

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