Brain boosting for children ahead of exams

Step 1: Get them moving during study breaks

Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. In a University of British Columbia study, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

So in a nutshell, regular exercise reduces insulin resistance, reduces inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. It also improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.

Here are some easy ways for children to get the blood flowing during study breaks:

  • Take a brisk 20-minute walk outside
  • Do jumping jacks in the garden
  • Go for a quick bike ride around the neighbourhood
  • Go for a swim
  • Take out a skipping rope and jump
  • Play outside with the family pet

Step 2: Plate up brain-boosting foods

Serve the following foods and you’ll be giving your child a healthy advantage when they have to concentrate:

  • Wholegrains – Foods like brown cereals, wheatbran, granary bread and brown pasta release energy (glucose) slowly into the bloodstream to keep children mentally alert all day long.
  • Oily fish – Essential fatty acids are good for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. Make sure you plate up plenty of salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers, or toss linseed (flaxseed) oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans into salads.
  • Blueberries – US studies show that blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short-term memory loss, so they make a great in-between snack!
  • Pumpkin seeds A handful of pumpkin seeds a day ensures the recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
  • Broccoli A great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.
  • Sage – Add fresh sage to meals, or use as an essential oil, to improve memory function.
  • Nuts – Vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, so stock your trolley with nuts, leafy greens, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains.

Unfortunately we can’t go into the exam room with our children, but at least we can support them at home by ensuring they keep moving and serving them healthy meals. Good luck for the exams!

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