A healthy back-to-school start for a productive 2017

A balanced lifestyle boosts concentration for improved performance

As South Africa’s schoolchildren prepare to return to the classroom for the academic year ahead, one productivity expert is advocating a healthy balance in diet, exercise, work and play for improved overall performance.

“Kicking off a new school year is an exciting, and sometimes daunting, prospect. Many parents give their children a ‘pep talk’ at this time, encouraging them to do their best in their school work and on the sports fields,” says Lizette Bester, Executive at Agility Corporate, who specialises in productivity.

“While this type of encouragement and support is invaluable, there is more that parents can do to help their children achieve such goals. Ensuring your child has a wholesome nutritious diet, gets sufficient exercise and strikes a healthy work-play balance can significantly improve concentration – and the best way to promote this is through leading by example.”

Bester, whose job involves helping businesses and their employees to achieve optimum productivity through creative integrated solutions, notes that the types of food people eat and their activity levels can influence concentration.

“Children and adults alike need to fuel their bodies and their minds with the nutrients contained in food, but choosing the wrong types of food can result in restlessness, lethargy and headaches, and are not conducive to learning or working.

“Sadly, in our busy working lives, too many South African families are choosing convenience foods without considering what these may do for their mental and physical energy levels, not to mention their long-term health.

“It is important to keep in mind that complex carbohydrates, found in unrefined wholegrain products, provide sustained energy to the body and the brain far better than simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sugar or white bread. This can have a major impact on children’s performance at school, or adults’ productivity at work.”

10 top back-to-school tips for better concentration:

  1. Do not skip breakfast – the brain needs energy to function optimally.
  2. Instead of buying lunch at the tuck shop, pack a healthy lunchbox, which should include low fat protein such as lean chicken, fish, eggs or cottage cheese, and at least two fresh fruit or vegetables.
  3. Avoid junk foods, particularly those that are high in refined carbohydrates, which give short-lived energy boosts but result in fatigue or ‘crash’.
  4. Instead of making sandwiches with refined white bread, opt for a low glycaemic index (GI) option such as whole-wheat or rye bread for more sustained energy.
  5. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, preferably a range of differently-coloured ones, as these supply the body with the essential micronutrients that will keep you healthy and on top of your game.
  6. Fizzy, sugary and caffeinated drinks should be avoided.  Water is best for hydrating the body and is essential for optimal brain function.
  7. Pack a few small healthy snacks, such as raw unsalted nuts and dried fruit.
  8. The brain needs at least six to eight hours of sleep for effective learning. Staying up late in order to study is counterproductive. Managing screen-time close to bedtime is essential to help both adults and children calm down and achieve a peaceful state of mind that is conducive to sleep.
  9. Exercise gets the blood pumping and supplies the brain with additional oxygen, which is highly beneficial to learning. Half an hour of exercise daily can sharpen the mind and make studying time more productive.
  10. Make time for rest, relaxation and family time, as this is fundamental to a healthy balanced lifestyle.

“Today’s school pupils represent the future of our country, and as Agility Corporate we recognise the importance of fostering young people’s talents to help them reach their full potential. Establishing the above healthy habits from a young age not only promotes lifelong wellness, but may also improve performance both in the classroom and on the sports field,” Bester concludes.