We are certainly aware of the many physical benefits of exercise, including weight control, increased energy, bone strength, skin health and reduced risk of disease to name a few. But that’s not what motivates most people to stick to their daily workout. Those who exercise regularly do so because of the incredible sense of wellbeing it can provide.
This is no less important for children than it is for adults. Kids who are physically active sleep better, think faster and feel more positive, confident and relaxed. But that’s not all. Let’s take a closer look at the mental health benefits of exercise for kids. This way, you can make a better case for it and motivate them to keep moving.
It seems almost daily that a report goes online with a new study showing how today’s youth are more lonely, stressed and depressed. Perhaps it’s the fickle job market. Maybe social media is to blame. One thing we know for sure is that exercise is a capable antidote to all the melancholy.
In fact, research has found it to be just as capable as antidepressant medication, albeit without the undesirable side-effects. This is because exercise promotes all kinds of positive changes in your child’s brain. This includes increased neural growth, reduced inflammation and endorphin release. It also serves as a healthy distraction from their woes.
Next to depression, anxiety seems to be just as prevalent among younger generations. Fortunately, exercise can relieve a little tension. This is because physical activity improves your energy levels, as well as having an element of mindfulness. The latter draws your focus, subsequently disrupting the flow of stressful or negative thoughts.
According to the CDC, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 6.1 million children in the United States alone. Exercise can help by improving connections in parts of the brain related to memory, mood and concentration. It works much like Ritalin and Adderall, but with benefits instead of side-effects.
The relationship between mental health and exercise extends far beyond the treatment of conditions. From improving memory to building intelligence, staying active can benefit your little one’s brain in many ways. Studies have found that cardiovascular exercise initiates a process called neurogenesis, which relates to the production of new brain cells.
In doing so, it strengthens the hippocampus; a part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. This reduces cognitive decline, which becomes more and more important as you age. So, who knows, perhaps your child’s big idea to take over the world is just a short run around the block away!
Fostering the habit of regular exercise strengthens the mind and soul. It can enhance your child’s sense of self-worth and help them feel more confident. This is extremely important for their development, as it motivates them to engage with others more frequently, thus improving their social skills.
As if the physical benefits weren’t enough, these mental health benefits further solidify the importance of exercise. So, be sure to make it a daily routine for both you and your kids.