Exercise = Healthier Kids

A 2014 University of North Texas study found that increased exercise may be linked to lower levels of depression in middle-schoolers, especially girls. Researchers looked at 240 girls and 197 boys in sixth grade from six middle schools in an urban region of northern Texas and collected data on students’ body composition, cardio activities and depression levels at the beginning of sixth grade and again at the beginning of seventh grade. Researchers found that girls doing regular cardio workouts like jogging, dancing and swimming were less depressed than those who weren’t exercising, since physical activity boosts the production of endorphins, the “happiness hormones” that are natural mood-lifters. Want to jump-start your own kids’ physical activity this season? Try one of these perfect-for-summer ideas:

•  Have a lap-swimming challenge—who can swim the most in 30 minutes?
•  Sign up for a fun run (like the Color Me Rad 5k  on July 26 at MetLife Stadium)
•  Start a family-walk-after-dinner routine
•  Grab a Frisbee or ball and see how many tosses you can make before someone drops it
•  Invest in a video game (like Nickelodeon Fit or Just Dance 2015) designed to get kids moving

An 'F' for Fast Food

Think twice before hitting one of NJ’s 6,500+ drive-thrus as you tool around town this summer. A fast food habit can hurt kids’ school performance this fall. A study published in Clinical Pediatrics found that fifth-grade students who ate fast food more often had significantly lower reading, math and science test scores by the time they reached eighth grade compared to those who didn’t eat fast food as frequently, or at all. Those who had the heaviest fast-food diets had test scores nearly 20 percent lower than those who skipped fast food all together. 

Researchers controlled for as many factors as possible, including exercise, overall diet, TV-watching, socioeconomic status and characteristics of their school and neighborhood. Even after considering these issues, the link between academic success and fast-food consumption remained. 

Of course, the findings don’t mean your kids can’t have chicken nuggets here and there, the study says. Just make sure a once-in-a-while treat doesn’t turn into a habit.

"EW" in the Water

Scary news: A nasty gastrointestinal virus, norovirus, can spread through otherwise clean lake water. 

A 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated an outbreak in Oregon, and found that 70 of the 15,400 visitors got sick, more than half kids ages 4-10. Researchers believe a swimmer with the virus contaminated the water. The takeaway? Make sure kids shower before swimming, stay out of the lake if they’re sick and don’t drink the water.

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