An active kid is a happier kid

Parents take note: A recent Journal of Science and Medicine report offers evidence that a link exists between excessive inactivity and depression levels in children and adolescents. The research shows that youth with higher physical activity levels and lower amounts of screen time (television, computer, etc.) to experience less depressive symptoms.

Australian researchers assessed 8256 students aged 10–16 years for levels of exercise activity, leisure screen time behaviors, and evaluated the degree of associated depressive symptoms.

Overall, those that participated in physical activities such as sports in or outside of school were shown to have lower depressive symptoms. Of the 33% of the overall respondents with moderate to high depressive symptoms, the highest rates were for females, who were collectively less active than the boys.

Excessive sedentary pursuits such as watching TV and computer use have been shown to correlate with increased rates of childhood obesity, and more prone to feelings of low self- esteem leading to depression. Combined with existing evidence that interpersonal skill development may be hindered in favor of ‘electronic relationships’ sought by young internet users, it is probable that those spending more time on-line may be more susceptible to feelings of depression resulting from lack of in-person social support.

Guidelines state that Children and adolescents should incorporate 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity daily, yet according to statistics more than half of our nation’s children don’t even come close to that.

Studies have shown that lifestyles learned as children are much more likely to stay with a person into adulthood. If sports and physical activities are a family priority, they will provide children and parents with a strong foundation for a lifetime of health.

Here is what you can do to encourage your child’s active and happier lifestyle:

  • Discuss with your pediatrician who can suggest a sport or activity that is best for your child.
  • Find a fun activity that is age appropriate, and offers variety to discourage boredom
  • Help child find a sport that they enjoy, and therefore more likely to continue
  • Get the entire family involved. It is a great way to spend time together. .
  • Plan ahead. Make sure your child has a convenient time for physical activity and is not overbooked
  • Provide a safe environment.
  • Show encouragement by getting your child the appropriate equipment and clothing
  • Be a role model. Children who regularly see their parents enjoying sports and physical activity are more likely to do so themselves.
  • Set guidelines to Limit television watching and computer use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time.

Do not overdo it. Exercise and physical activity should not hurt, or interfere with other priorities such as school or family commitments.

–By Joyce Hyde, Executive Director, Valley Sports


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