By: Jonathan Tait, D.O. – 9/15/2015

You stressed? Or are eustressed?

School is back in session and 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!

OK, maybe what you may really have on your mind is stress as you shift back into the “school routine”.

Not all stress is bad. In fact there is such a thing as “healthy stress”, otherwise known as eustress, which is a level of moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as useful and beneficial by the experiencer – you.

From kindergarteners to graduate level college students, this state of eustress is needed to facilitate concentration and learning, and it will be critical, and directly related, to how successful your academic year will be. If you are in the work-world, it is also tied to how bright the future looks for you career wise.

The ability to harness and apply this “healthy stress” state to focus your efforts in school or in your career will propel you forward towards your goals. However, pushing your body in a persistently stressed state is no longer healthy, but harmful. Your school or work performance will suffer, and so will your body. Living in a chronic stress state will suppress your immune system (your body’s defense and healing system) making you more susceptible to catching colds, feeling fatigued, mentally exhausted, and generally lacking drive or ambition in life.

This is where you approach a “State of Eeyore”, which is much different than a state of eustress.

Remember Eeyore? Winnie the Pooh’s gloomy, depressed and pessimistic donkey friend?

So what is the formula or outlet for avoiding becoming a little grey donkey that NOBODY wants to be around?

Exercise.

The research is conclusive: physical exercise can elevate mood, improve mental focus, and 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 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.

Now here is the cool thing. Many people feel that doing the Sunday crossword puzzle or jamming through a book of Soduku will keep your mind sharp as a tack as you age, but is there something better?

Maybe. Researchers are showing that neurogenesis also seems to be stimulated by exercise. The reasons may include stimulating increased blood flow to the brain as well as wiring new pathways to perform exercises that challenge your body’s ability to balance, bound, and move better.

The take-away message? If you are a student, a parent of a student or even a teacher, building exercise into your schedule should be a top priority this school year. To neglect it is to sabotage potential and open the door for behavioral problems – and it will unleash your internal Eeyore. Nobody wants to be around an Eeyore all the time!

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 bursts of exercise! Need help jump-starting a fitness plan that you can fit into your hectic schedule? Like a teacher in the classroom, hiring a teacher in the weight-room will help you see faster results, and is well worth the enrollment fee.

Plug in to one of our Medical Fitness 101 classes this fall.

Committed to making you as loveable as Winnie the Pooh, but far more productive, this school year,

Dr. Tait

Sources:

1 http://impossible2possible.com/modules/baffin/AP%20Word%20Module%202%20-%20Exercising%20your%20Brain.f.pdf

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