Whether you are a student or the parent of a student, you likely have one thing on your mind as the new school year begins: academic performance. From kindergarteners to graduate level college students, concentration and learning are critical and directly related to how successful the year is and how bright the future looks career wise.
You may be wondering what academic performance has to do with a fitness blog.
The answer? Everything. The research is conclusive: physical exercise directly impacts how well a student does academically.
Consistent, daily exercise results in significantly improved concentration, learning and test scores.
In his book, Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Harvard Psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey cites studies that document dramatic increases in the academic performance of students when they begin adding exercise to their daily schedule.
City Park Collegiate school in Saskatoon Saskatchewan is an inner city school in which many students have both behavioral and academic challenges. But after bringing treadmills into the class room and letting the students use them, behavioral and academic problems improved.
Students were able to sit still longer, concentrate better and scores began sky rocketing. In just four months, the students in Allison Cameron’s class began improving academically. Grade level increases were in the 27%-36% range, and math increases were similar.1
And all it took was 20 minutes of exercise each morning.
What is it about exercise that causes such significant changes? Scientists are still trying to understand it, but it appears as though exercise helps to lay down new pathways in the brain, which aids learning. Neurogenesis also seems to be stimulated by exercise. Neurogenesis is the process by which the brain grows new brain cells. These new brain cells help build the new pathways along which learning can take place.2
City Park isn’t the only school that has seen improvements in student’s academic and behavioral performance. At Naperville Central High School west of Chicago, similar results are seen, with students dramatically improving in reading, math3 and science.
The take-away message? If you are a student, a parent of a student or even a teacher, exercise should be a top priority. To neglect it is to sabotage potential and open the door for behavioral problems.
There are many ways to get a good workout in.
Resist the urge to neglect exercise in order to spend more time with the books. Your study time will be much more productive if you feed your brain with exercise!
What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.
But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you're not working out.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don't forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts
2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 425F. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.
Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil.
Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!
Zug Elite Training, LLC
Zug Elite Training, LLC