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Secondary School - Staying healthy during the exam period

05 May 2019

Last week was an emotional one, for different reasons, depending on your ‘status’. If you are a Year 11 and 12 student, the week was filled with stimulating sentiments as you attended your Leavers’ Assembly on Tuesday and sat your first IGCSE or AS Level examination on Thursday. If you are a parent of a Year 11 and 12 student, you most certainly empathised for your child and kept the reality of your own exam stress at bay to offer reassuring support at home. If you are a Secondary School teacher, you could not help but feel the same exam apprehension that students and parents alike face. If you are a Year 10 student, you suddenly became, for the rest of the year, the oldest students on site!

As for our Key Stage 3 students, they are well on their journey towards revision week (starting 19 May) and end-of-year assessment week (starting 26 May).

In order to approach any exam period as successfully as one can, staying healthy should be at the top of the priority list. Please keep reading through some of the most interesting facts that link physical exercise and exam time.

Taking part in physical activity promotes the secretion of hormones, such as serotonin, which helps in regulating your sleep cycles and boosting your mood; dopamine, which positively influences learning and your attention span; and norepinephrine, which affects motivation and mental stimulation. Coupled with an increased blood flow to the brain, this cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters improves cognitive function and the ability to focus for longer time periods, meaning higher quality revision sessions, and a higher chance of hitting your target grades. Research shows that exercise significantly reduces resting levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, allowing you to spend less time worrying, and more time getting work done. And if that

was not enough, regular movement has also been shown in studies to result in an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved with memory retention. What are you waiting for? Leave your books aside for a while and exercise, it will make your studies more effective!

Is time a struggle to fit some physical exercise in your revision schedule? Remember that exercise does not have to last for hours to count. During your revision period, you might benefit from moving towards shorter, more intense sessions. You still get all the important physical and cognitive benefits, just in less time. You can also stay fresh throughout the rest of the day by taking regular movement breaks from your work, every half an hour or so. Whether it is a short walk around the house (or the school at break time!) or a few stretches in the library, do what you can to stay active.

If you are not yet convinced, research has also shown that physical exercise helps to keep you happy and positive. It is very important during exams to keep yourself calm and not let yourself get stressed. Exercise will help this, as well as healthy eating habits and a regular sleep pattern. Develop a routine you are comfortable with and… Exercise towards the grades you target to achieve!

Lydie Gonzalès
Head of Secondary School