(Natural News) Most parents have one main goal: to ensure that their children are healthy and happy. Maintaining good health in children is generally pretty straightforward; the right diet, along with plenty of sleep and exercise are usually enough. However, when it comes to happiness, the situation becomes a lot more complex.
Thankfully, a new study has provided some guidance for parents who want to ensure their children grow up to be happy adults, and it turns out that the same exercise that can enhance their physical health could be the key to good mental health as well.
The study, which looked at 800 children between the ages of 6 and 10 years old over the course of four years, found a strong link between physical activity and being well-adjusted. The children who exercised regularly were less likely to have mood disorders as adults.
This finding, which was published in Pediatrics Journal, could prove incredibly useful for helping to prevent depression, which is increasingly affecting young people. Young women in particular have a high risk of mental health problems, with one out of five UK women reporting a mental disorder such as depression or anxiety.
Having depression is unpleasant enough for young people and their loved ones, but many of the available treatments can turn this situation into a nightmare, with children and young adults especially vulnerable to the heightened suicide risk that antidepressants pose. In fact, a review in the British Medical Journal found that children under the age of 18 who took antidepressants had double the risk of suicide.
Parents who want to reduce their chances of having to deal with this heartbreaking condition can push their children to be more active. In order to be effective, their physical exertion should be enough to cause the children to sweat or get slightly out of breath.
The researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology enlisted the help of activity trackers to log the children’s physical activity levels and then interviewed the children and their parents to determine whether they had any symptoms of depression. The kids who got moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity were less likely to display symptoms of depression two years later. Each additional hour of moderate to vigorous activity was linked to a moderate decrease in depression symptoms.
However, the inverse was not true; the study did not prove an association between inactivity and depression symptoms. Therefore, this study suggests that while a lack of activity might not necessarily cause depression, being physically active can help stave off depression later in life.
It has already been shown that exercise can alleviate depression and improve mood in adults, but its effects on young children have not been studied as extensively. Depression and other mood disorders often do not emerge until people reach adolescence or young adulthood.
Physical activity releases chemicals in the brain such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which can help boost mood and lessen depression. In addition, exercise can reduce the body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
It also has a number of other benefits, including enhanced cognition, a higher level of social interaction, a better quality of life, higher levels of self-esteem, and improved body image.
Limiting the amount of screen time children get is a positive step, but parents need to encourage their children to be more physically active if they want to give them the best start in life. Childhood is the time when mental health patterns are formed that will stick with people throughout their lifetime, which is why parents and schools alike need to push children to get moving and enjoy exercise to ensure a happy and well-adjusted future.