Studies show that physically active kids are less likely to be depressed.
Active kids may be happier kids. Physical exercise provides well-known benefits against obesity, heart disease and diabetes, but a new study by University College London confirms that kids who are regularly physically active suffer less from depression.
Exercising three times a week lowers depression risks
It’s estimated that 8% to 9% of kids and teens in United States suffer from depression. Girls are twice as likely to be depressed than boys during adolescence. If depression is not properly treated, it can lead to a series of bad decision making, social isolation, and risky behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse, joining gangs or suicide.
The new findings published in JAMA Psychiatry journal suggest increased physical activity reduces symptoms of depression. Also, the study showed that active kids and teens tend to be less depressed later in life.
According to Dr Pereira, participants of this study between 20 and 40 years old who weren’t physically active but started exercising 3 times a week, had a 16% lower depression risk. Dr Pereira also says that this is not a phenomena reported only in this research, but it’s seen across the population – people who are more physically active suffer less from clinical depression.
This is especially important when it comes to kids because anti-depression medications can have more severe consequences for kids than for adults and any natural way of decreasing depression is always welcomed. The study states that adults in their early twenties who were intensively suffering from depression haven’t been physically active in their past. Therefore, depression can be considered a barrier to adopting a healthy physical activity regime.
In Dr. Pereira’s words, these findings are important for designing policies to get more kids, teens and young adults involved in regular physical activity.
Another study from 2004 published in Psychosomatic Medicine journal showed that physically active 7th graders were less depressed during the following two years.
Active kids who exercise regularly combined with eating healthy food will not only be more emotionally satisfied, but will be physically healthy, have stronger muscle and bone structure, better immune system and are likely maintain the habit of healthy living throughout their life.
Tips: how to get your kid to exercise
-Join the game and lead the way. Whether you decide to start slow with walks or bike rides, or you choose some fitness games for kids, they will enjoy it more if they share the experience with someone they trust and feel safe with – their parents.
-Limit kids’ time in front of the screen. TVs, computers, smartphones, laptops or tablets – all that is a powerful distraction for kids, so keep those gadgets in the living room where you can supervise the time your child spends using them. Find some more active alternatives to screen-time, like outdoor games for kids, sports, walking the dog etc. Fighting a sedentary way of life in kids can be difficult at first but be persistent, patient and don’t give up – it will get easier with time.
-Listen to what kids like. Be open minded when it comes to activities kids like to do; you will have more success getting your child to be active if he/she is doing something they love and enjoy.
-Include their friends. Use positive peer pressure to get your child to exercise. The experience should be about having fun, discovering new exciting skills and strengthening friendships, not about competing and winning.