The link between exercise and kids’ wellbeing may be stronger than ever.
In the past few years, the links between exercise, childhood health and the environment have become more clear, and studies have found that the exercise-related activities in a child’s life can actually make the child healthier.
This is the key finding of a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine, which found that children who had exercised regularly and engaged in physical activity in their daily lives were 10 times more likely to have a lower risk of developing depression, obesity and chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
But how can parents and teachers and school nurses and the health care system help?
Exercise and healthy living are often thought of as two separate things.
But this study suggests that exercise can have a significant effect on children’s health, too.
The link Between Exercise and Kids’ Health A new study in Preventive Med found that physical activity increases children’s risk of mental health problems, including depression, heart and respiratory problems and diabetes.
“Our study provides strong evidence that children’s physical activity is associated with positive health outcomes, including improved mental health, depression and heart health,” said the study’s lead author, Sara A. Shriver, a clinical professor of health policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
“We found that physically active children had a 20 percent lower risk for developing depression compared to non-active children.”
The findings of the study were based on a sample of more than 3,000 children in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s National Health Interview Survey and the National Survey of Family Growth.
The study looked at data from the 2003-04 to 2006-07 surveys.
The researchers found that kids who had engaged in a moderate amount of physical activity over the past year were about 15 percent less likely to develop a mental health problem compared to children who were not physically active, which is the same risk level that researchers have found in other studies of kids’ physical activity and mental health.
“The relationship between physical activity, depression, and mental illness is well-established,” Shriver said.
“Children who are physically active have a greater chance of having a healthier mental health than children who are not physically inactive.”
The researchers also found that boys who were active had a reduced risk of having depression, a reduced rate of obesity and a lower rate of Type 2 disease.
But the research also found the most important factor in the relationship between activity and children’s mental health was that children were physically active and engaged.
Children who were physically inactive had higher rates of chronic diseases and mental disorders than children that were physically engaged, the researchers found.
The results of the research were published in Preventively Med, a peer-reviewed journal of preventive medicine.
“What’s interesting about this is that it really provides strong support for parents and educators who want to get physical activity into the kids’ life,” Shimmer said.
The key findings from the study, which involved data from 3,814 children who participated between 2003 and 2006 in the 2003 and 2004 National Health, Nutrition and Development Survey and in 2006 and 2007 National Survey on Family Growth, are that kids that were active in their childhoods had a lower likelihood of developing a mental disorder compared to kids who were inactive.
The studies findings suggest that physical exercise and mental wellness are not mutually exclusive.
Children that were engaged in moderate amounts of physical exercise, physical activity that was associated with lower rates of depression and obesity and physical activity associated with higher rates and prevalence of depression, were also more likely than children in other areas to have the lowest rates of Type 1 diabetes, obesity, chronic conditions, asthma and Type 1 cardiovascular disease.
“It really is important to remember that physical health is a combination of physical, cognitive and emotional health,” Shiver said.
Physical activity and physical wellness may help children maintain good health, especially if kids have a physical activity plan and exercise their body in regular ways.
“There’s nothing worse than having to choose between physical health and being able to engage in your own personal wellness,” Shaker said.
That said, the studies findings don’t prove that physical fitness is the answer to everything.
“I think that if parents and health care providers and educators and health professionals can work together to make sure kids have regular exercise, they’re going to do much better,” Shader said.
She added that parents need to do a lot of homework on what their kids are doing and what activities they do that don’t involve them in a sports environment, and to keep track of what exercise their kids do and what they don’t do.
“If kids are getting a lot more exercise and they’re engaged in healthy activities, then their mental health and their physical health are going to be better,” she said.