The Physical Activity Your Kids Get Now Can Ward Depression Later in Life

This may seem like a no-brainer, but kids who use their muscles now are less likely to have emotional issues later on in life.

Sure, it’s Parenting 101 to know that children benefit from being out in the sunshine, playing with their peers, and exercising in focused ways (sports, swimming, and the like). We know that’s all good, but researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, have proven it. And they discovered that even young kiddos need “vigorous” physical activity, which will reap benefits in the years to come.

These types of studies have been done on adults, but not as much when it comes to kids. “Our results indicate that increasing physical activity in children may prevent depression,” said study leader Dr. Tonje Zahl. The scientists used activity trackers to see how much exercise children got, then interviewed the kids and their parents to figure out how the kids were feeling and whether depression of any kind was present. They found that when youngsters got more moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6 and 8, they were less likely to suffer symptoms of major depressive disorders two years later.

Dr. Gary Goldfield, a psychology researcher at the University of Ottawa in Canada, says, “Physical activity can also reduce depression through many psychosocial processes such as reduced stress, increased social interaction, improved cognition, learning and academic performance as well as increased self-esteem, body image and quality of life which can positively impact mood.”

That’s because exercise releases various chemicals in the brain that are known to improve mood or reduce feelings of depression; these include endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. It’s also been proven to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (Something that’s a big benefit to all of us, not just the little ones.)

Dr. Larry Rosen, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, adds: “The message seems clear. Exercise now keeps you feeling better later.”

There are several ways to add exercise into your kid’s daily routine – even if you start with a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, or a little game of catch in the front yard. Baby steps can lead to leaps and bounds!

How active are your kids – and what are their favorite ways to get moving? Share with us!

Tags : health   exercise   emotional health   depression   

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