You’ve probably heard this a million times before: “I don’t want to go outside…it’s too hot/cold/windy/sunny/cloudy.” And this: “I don’t want fruit for dessert. I want ice cream/cookies/cake/candy.” But it’s possible you haven’t heard this: a lack of exercise and a poor diet can impact the way your child learns. And as a parent, that should raise a rather large red flag.

Let’s look at exercise first. It’s so important for so many reasons. Not only does it make your child feel good, it’s also critical to kids’ ability to learn and retain information. A study by the University of British Columbia in Canada showed that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.

Most experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity a week–that’s 30 minutes a day for five days. Perfect for a school week! Knowing that, how do you get your homeschooler to stop resisting exercise and all its obvious benefits? Make the daily 30 minutes enjoyable and incorporate it into your school day! Take a brisk nature walk and observe plant and animal life near your home, shoot hoops in the driveway, take a few laps in the pool, ride a bike around the block a few times, have a catch, or dance to your child’s favorite music. Save yourself some labor by having your child do some rigorous household work–mopping a floor, mowing a lawn, or raking leaves. If your homeschooler is sweating, they’re doing it right.

Now, let’s talk food.You already know about the obvious benefits of a healthy diet, but what about the less-obvious impact that an unhealthy diet may have on your child’s ability to learn? According to the Society for Neuroscience, recent studies show that diets with high levels of saturated fats can actually impair learning and memory.So, what types of foods contain high levels of saturated fats? Unfortunately, the kind that most kids LOVE: fried foods, sweets, burgers, sugary juices, sodas…and on and on. Eating these popular, less costly foods results in a reduction in energy and focus as well as decreased brain power. Luckily, this is something that you can control fairly easily by serving healthy alternatives. Give your student a bowl of trail mix or memory-improving peanuts to much on, or slice up some fresh fruit to satisfy the craving for sweets.

Now you know why diet and exercise are so critical to your student’s ability to learn. If you’ve already adopted these healthy habits, congratulations! If not, it’s never too late to start. After all, you want your child’s learning ability at full capacity during your homeschooling lessons!