Back-to-school routines are ramping up, and Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation experts have a few tips to keep in mind to make this school year safe, healthy and happy.
“Preventive health has always been important for students,” said OMRF physician-scientist Rod McEver, M.D., the foundation’s vice president of research.
With much of Oklahoma under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s medium and high Covid community risk levels, the need for students to have up-to-date vaccinations has only increased. “Safety data continues to show that it’s safer for your kids to get the vaccine than to get Covid, even if the symptoms seem mild.”
The ultimate goal is to have “more confidence sending kids to class,” said McEver. In addition to current vaccines, this means staying alert and staying home if symptoms of any illness arise.
The transition from summer to the school year can come with a significant reduction in exercise for young people, but regular movement is helpful in coping with the highs and lows of student life. “When you exercise daily, you’ll find that your mood and mental health, in addition to your physical health, are just better,” said OMRF President Andrew Weyrich, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and cardiovascular biologist.
Adding a social aspect, like working out with a friend or practicing with a team, can improve benefits further, he added.
“Start with something attainable that fits your schedule,” Weyrich said. “Developing those habits early in life makes a big difference.”
Hit the hay.
McEver warned against the “false bargain” of prioritizing activities over sleep. While young people may be tempted to pack their day with extracurriculars and study groups, this strategy can backfire over time if it interferes with a regular snoozing schedule. “You don’t get the most out of life if you’re not rested,” he said.
While sleep requirements vary by age, McEver said getting enough shut-eye for students’ individual needs means “everything you do at school and home is going to be better.”
Find your balance.
Maintaining physical and mental well-being can be tough in school, but it’s good practice. “Remember to give yourself a break,” Weyrich said.
Health, sleep, exercise, nutrition and more are all part of the “life balance” that guides daily outcomes. “It’s possible to fit total wellness into your life in a way that still allows you to meet your goals.”