How exercise can benefit children’s mental health

May 23, 2018
Select Psychology

The weather has been glorious over the past few weeks and it is so much easier to get out and about when it is lovely and sunny, but if you need that extra push to stay active in the cold and dreary months it is worth knowing that physical exercise could have a beneficial impact upon your children’s mental health.

Depressive episodes in childhood can have a far-reaching impact well into adulthood. They can contribute to lower educational attainment, worse physical health outcomes and lower self-esteem. Children with depression are also more likely to experience episodes of depression later in life, so wouldn’t it be great if we could arm them with some tools to help then to combat depression and keep them fit and healthy long beyond their teenage years.

The benefits of exercise:

• Exercise helps our brain to release serotonin, a chemical that helps to regulate our mental health
• Physical activity stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which improves our mood
• Young people who participate in team sports learn social skills and gain confidence
• Children who develop physical abilities and learn new skills feel more positive about their bodies
• When engaged in a physical activity your child will be distracted from stressful and negative thoughts

We all have busy lives and it can be hard to find ways of increasing our activity levels and easy to come up with excuses but a few small changes to your routine could have big benefits. How about walking the kids to school once a week or taking the stairs instead of the lift. My kids always moan about this but turn it into a race and they are soon scampering up to the top. Remember your child doesn’t have to enjoy sport to be physically active.

Don’t use exercise as a punishment, rather a reward. Try introducing a homework break and using this to kick a ball around or have a dance. Encouraging small changes to a child’s daily routine can also have benefits for adults, and as we introduce these changes we are more likely to check our own behaviors. So, be it walking to the shops rather than driving, swapping some of that screen time reward for physical activity or getting your dancing shoes on just small changes now can have untold benefits for our children both now and in the future.

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