There are many known health benefits that individuals reap from maintaining a physically active lifestyle. From improved cardiovascular health to lower risk of diabetes, to a general feeling of well-being, the studies and anecdotal proof is extensive.
What some may not realize, is that the mental health benefits are also great. Numerous studies show that increasing physical activity is a very effective at helping prevent and treat depression.
With the fast paced society and ever increasing stress, depression is striking individuals at younger ages. The National Institute of Mental Health says 12.5 percent of the U.S. population ages 12-17 experienced at least one major depressive episode. That’s an estimated 3 million U.S. adolescents / teens.
Just as exercise helps adults with depression, research shows youth can get these same benefits. One study showed children who participated in more moderate to vigorous physical activity at ages 6 and 8 continued to receive the benefits of lower risk of depression for at least 2 years.
For both youth and adults, exercise increases the brain chemicals that are responsible for positive mood, and decreases the brain chemicals that are responsible for stress. The combination of lower stress and better mood leads to a lower risk of depression.
What are you waiting for? Be a great role model for your children. Turn off the TV, put down the electronics, grab the kids and get moving! Take a walk or bike ride, play ball, go on a hike, canoe on a local river, take a class, just move. Make it a family affair. The family that is active together can enjoy a longer, healthier AND happier life together!