Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds
By Jane Sandwood, Freelance Writer
As educators, we often see that unhealthy children do not meet their academic potential. Not only do they have more school absences but there is also evidence documented by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion which links the health of students with academic achievements. Let’s explore the link between health, grades and student engagement and motivation.
Diet and nutrition
There is a wide range of evidence to support the link between health and grades. As far as diet and nutrition are concerned, student participation in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) School Breakfast Program (SBP) is associated with improved grades and improved cognitive performance. A lack of foods such as fruit, vegetables, dairy and a deficit of vitamins and minerals in a student’s diet is linked to lower grades and hunger due to insufficient food intake is linked to lower grades, absenteeism and an inability to focus.
Evidence shows a correlation between poor oral health and poor performance in school. Oral health problems contribute to missing school and children with a toothache are four times more likely to have lower grades than children without dental problems. On average, children with dental problems miss up to three more days of school than students with no dental problems. For excellent oral health, children should have dental checkups twice a year which can be covered by comprehensive dental insurance.
The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years should have 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily. Physical activity is also closely linked to academic achievement. Students who are physically active have been widely shown to get better grades and cognitive function, have better rates of school attendance as well as improved classroom behavior. Increased time spent on physical activity by students does not negatively affect students’ academic achievement.
Knowledge of this link between health and grades means that the education system is a key contributor in getting this message across to students. Core messages are that healthy students are better learners, schools can influence diet and physical activity, successful students help build strong communities and all students deserve the opportunity to be healthy and successful.
Educators have witnessed first hand the link between health and grades and it is reassuring to know that there is also clear evidence to show that healthy kids can fulfill their academic potential. Teachers play a key role in helping students to understand health behaviors and how this affects their academic and long-term physical health.