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By Karen Alexander, Oncology Wellness Specialist


How Lifestyle Impacts your Child’s Mental Skills

Childhood is the critical period of life for brain development. The brain has so much plasticity during this time that the child’s lifestyle can impact their future. Unfortunately, during the past 30-40 years, daily physical activity among younger generations has gradually declined due to an increase in sedentary lifestyle. This includes time spent on computers, watching TV, playing video games, and other screen time.

A recent study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health states that children’s lifestyle may impact their cognition and academic development. Canadian researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health using information from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a 10-year observational study investigating brain development in American children.

The study included 4,500 children ages 9 to 10 across the United States and assessed how behavior in a 24-hour period contributes to cognition performance. Children were evaluated with six standard tests that measured language skills, memory, planning, and speed at completing mental tasks. The results were compared with the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth.

The Canadian and American guidelines suggest 60 minutes of daily physical activity and less than 2 hours of recreational screen time. Canadian guidelines suggest 9 to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep for children 5–13 years old and 8 to 10 hours for teenagers 14–17 years old with consistent bed and wake-up times. American guidelines suggest 10 to 13 hours for those aged 3-5 and 9 to 12 hours for children 6-12 years old.

Results showed that 51% of American kids met the sleeping guidelines, 37% stayed within the screen time parameters, and 18% met the exercise recommendation. Researchers found that children who met more recommendations had superior global cognition. These results confirm the importance of promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors (physical activity and sleep patterns) during childhood and adolescence to improve brain development and cognitive functions.

Below are 5 ways you can encourage your children to be more physically active:

  1. Set an example for your kids and be physically active.
  2. Change the routine after dinner and encourage family activities such as walks, bike rides or playing games together.
  3. Give your children toys that promote physical activity and provide the appropriate environment such as public parks, community baseball fields or basketball courts.
  4. Make physical activity fun. Children tend to enjoy non-structured physical activity such as playground activities.
  5. Be safe! Always provide protective equipment such as helmets, wrist pads or knee pads and ensure that the activity is age-appropriate.

Click here to chekc out the U.S. guidelines for children physical activity

Click here to review the U.S. guidelines for sleep goals in children

Have a wonderful weekend!
Karen Alexander, BSND, MSCN

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