The history of human evolution shows a definitive link between our physical health and psychological well-being. If we look back to our ancestors, Ancient Greek philosophers advocated the importance of a “Sound Mind in a Sound Body” and this philosophy still reigns today. The importance of maintaining a healthy mind and body is pertinent for young minds, especially when considering the relationship between health and academic excellence.
Research has shown that the academic success of students is strongly linked to their health, with healthier students being better learners. Students who are more physically active and consume a balanced diet perform better in school than those who do not. Here are a few fun facts:
- Students who eat breakfast have better attention and memory.
- After just 20 minutes of physical activity, brain activity improves.
- Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain. Not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a “first aid kit” on damaged brain cells.
But being healthy is not just about being fit and physically active, it is equally about exercising your brain. According to David Rock, CEO of Neuro Leadership Institute, our brain needs to enjoy seven types of experience in order to function at its best:
- Deep Focus – Focusing deeply on a project is one type of thinking. While it feels like this kind of thinking is helping us get things done, it is actually also giving our brain much needed exercise.
- Connecting time – This is connecting to anything – other people, nature or the wider world.
- Down time – Down time is anything not goal-focused: reading, a mundane task such as washing the dishes, or just relaxing on the couch. “This is allowing yourself to mind wander and reflect.” (David Rock)
- Time in – Time in can include reflecting on deep thoughts with your family, doing a meditation or anything that enables deep thinking. “Time in allows your brain to, in a sense, reorganise itself through reflection.” (David Rock)
- Play time – Enjoy a few good laughs with close friends, attend a comedy night or play with a child.
- Physical time – Your brain benefits tremendously from physical activity, particularly aerobic activity. Exercise oxygenates the brain and helps to flush out toxins, whilst activating regions of the brain that otherwise don’t get used.
- Sleep – Sleep is an active process of reorganising your brain, strengthening and reorganising connections. Sleep is also helpful for creativity and coming up with insights.