The big 4 : Hydration – Breakfast – Sleep – Exercise
Is one of your children preparing for exams this summer? We think exam times are a good time for young people to be reminded of the link between mind and body while revising and taking their exams. Perhaps you could share this blog with your child/teenager?
Looking after our body and our wellbeing, alongside revision, is essential for peak performance in exams as well as general ongoing wellness and wellbeing. So, it applies to all of us.
Research proves that hydration, breakfast, sleep and exercise really make a big difference to exam and revision performance. We’ve summarised some key points below:
We all know that the human body is largely made of water; even our brain cells. Water is essential for life and for physical and mental performance. Symptoms of dehydration can start quickly because the body does not store water.
If the water is not replaced, the body starts taking water from the cells in the body and the brain, causing brain to shrink.
Did you know that mild to moderate dehydration can affect memory, cause headaches, and make it difficult for someone to think clearly? Even mild dehydration can make someone feel irritable, anxious or tired. According to research, mild dehydration can make people perceive tasks to be much harder than they are.
So staying hydrated is really important for the mind and body. Hydration can really improve focus and concentration for revision and during exams.
Interestingly, a study of university students found that those who brought drinks, especially water, with them into an exam performed on average 5% better than those who didn’t. So, do encourage your children to take water in to an exam (and drink it) if they can.
Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast!
Research show that students who eat breakfast perform better in exams and will also concentrate better overall in their studies. So, this applies to revision too. On exam days it is important to encourage your children to eat breakfast.
But what sort of Breakfast?
Ideally a good breakfast, to benefit the mind and body, would include some of the following:
Slow-release carbohydrates like porridge oats, whole grain bread or low- sugar muesli because they give you slow-release energy.
A source of protein is also a really good idea to keep you fuller for longer. Things like: milk, yoghurt or eggs could be a good choice.
On exam day try to include a source of Omega-3 fats like salmon or mackerel which are believed to have brain-boosting properties.
Of course eating a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fibre, grains,good fats and protein is really important for our mind and body and especially when we need to concentrate and focus.
What about snacks?
A drop in blood-sugar can impact concentration, so it’s important to encourage your child not to skip meals. But what about snacking in between meals?
Well, snacks like chocolate and crisps might fill you up quickly but the lack of fibre and high sugar-content could lead you to being hungry again quite quickly and make your energy peak and trough. Dried fruits, nuts, high-fibre fruits like bananas and apples are better snacks to keep you fuller and concentrating for longer..
It was recently quoted in the Huffington Post by Dr. Michael Roizen a chief wellness officer in the US that “Sleep is the most underrated health habit.”
Sleep is really important for our mind and body.
It is vital for general health and wellbeing and it also plays a role in how the brain processes information.
A key point here is that not getting enough sleep can negatively impact memory and slow down responses.
Experts believe that the brain transfers knowledge from our short-term memory to long-term memory most effectively when we sleep.
Sleep is so important for revision and exam season and research proves this. There’s evidence to show, that students who sleep for seven hours a night perform 10% better at school, on average, than those who get less sleep.
An important bed routine, can help you sleep. Avoiding screens and television just before sleep can help your calm your mind. The colours emitted from our screens stop our brains from feeling tired.
Avoiding food and drink with caffeine in it can also help make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. Avoid things like tea, coffee, chocolate and cola.
There is lots of research you can find on the internet about the positive impact that exercise can have on academic performance. Here are the key points:
Exercise improves concentration and memory
Lower oxygen levels in the blood reduce our ability to concentrate, and when you can’t concentrate it becomes harder to learn new information or remember information you studied in the past. Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, which helps the brain function and will improve your concentration.
Exercise can actually help grow new brain cells
Research has also shown that intense aerobic activity can actually grow new brain cells in a part of the brain responsible for memory, the hippocampus. Until recently most of this research had been done on rats and mice, but human studies are starting to show that a regular programme of cardio exercise several times a week could produce up to 30% more cells in the hippocampus. Wow!
In one study, participants performed better on memory tests after three months of regular cardio exercise.
Exercise improves sleep and in turn sleep improves memory
Exercise improves sleep as we are more likely to be physically worn out. In turn, as is covered in point 3 above, sleep improves memory.
Exercise is a great way to beat stress
There is lots of evidence about exercise and stress management. Regular exercise boosts mood. When we exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins. This makes us feel good. Research shows that exercise reduces stress, wards off feelings of anxiety and boosts self-esteem.
So, including some exercise into a revision schedule makes complete sense and is a great idea! A short brisk walk with your dog or jog around the park, a 20 minute bike ride really can make all the difference. Choose something you like doing and enjoy it!
Small changes can make a big difference
No-one should beat themselves up if they don’t manage to do these 4 things particularly well. However, everyone can start from where they are and make some small changes and be more mindful about hydration, breakfast, sleep and exercise. Even small positive changes during the revision and exam season can make a big difference. Time to drink another glass of water?
We hope that you found this article helpful. Good luck to everyone revising right now and to the parents/carers supporting those revising, from all of us at Home-School Tutoring UK.