People often say kids have no reason to be anything but happy. But while children don’t have to worry about adult stressors like finances or a career, their mental health can still suffer from numerous influences. Examining the impact of children’s fitness on their mental health can help families assist each other as their young loved ones grapple with intense emotions.
5 Benefits of Fitness for Children’s Mental Health
When kids are active regularly, they can experience several mental health benefits. Some advantages come from how much they enjoy the exercise and if it happens in a group setting.
1. Improved Mood
The brain produces more dopamine when you are physically active. It recognizes the increased movement and rewards itself with the feel-good hormone to connect movement with positive feelings. Dopamine overrides negative moods, immediately improving a child’s mood when their heart rate increases.
2. Less Anxiety
Exercise can also reduce a child’s anxiety symptoms. When they get moving, their mind and body must focus on the activity. They can’t focus on sources of anxiety while trying to kick a soccer ball into a goal or complete the choreography in their ballet class. It’s an effective way to minimize anxiety symptoms if a young person feels on edge before the activity begins.
3. Reduced Depression
Physical movement makes depression feel less severe for a few reasons. The dopamine produced at a higher level during exercise makes people feel an improved sense of well-being. If their activity happens in a group setting or with a team, the socialization will also decrease the isolation, potentially intensifying a child’s depression.
4. Higher Self-Esteem
Mental health conditions can feel much more powerful for people with low self-esteem. They’ll more easily believe negative thoughts about themselves caused by depression, anxiety, OCD or other diagnoses. Successfully participating in a goal-oriented exercise and being a helpful part of a team teach kids they can do whatever they put their minds to. It boosts their self-esteem in ways that can remain in the long term if they continue their preferred activity for years to come.
5. Improved Anger Management
Bottled-up anger can deteriorate a child’s mental health. While the anger may stem from various life events, exercise can drain some of its power. When kids enhance their fitness with regular exercise, the physical exertion removes the angry tension in their bodies. They’ll feel physically and mentally more at ease when they go home.
Fun Ways Kids Can Get More Active
After examining the positive impact fitness can have on their children’s mental health, parents may begin looking for ways to get their kids more active. These are a few ideas parents can try for kids of any age.
Join a School Sports Team
Schools offer a variety of sports teams so kids can find a form of exercise they love. Parents may encourage their child to try out for sports like baseball, softball, basketball, football or soccer. The kids may have more success if they join a team alongside their friends or try out for a team with other kids they already know.
Attend a Summer Camp
Summer camps offer kids more opportunities than eating s’mores and making crafts. They’re also hubs of fun physical activity that campers may not experience anywhere else.
Parents can look for summer camps according to their child’s age and interests. They could spend a few days or a week enjoying activities like horseback riding, hiking or gymnastics. Traditional summer sports camps also keep athletes in shape between seasons, which may help older kids stay on track to earn college scholarships in the coming years.
Volunteer With Local Organizations
Middle and high schoolers could join local volunteer organizations to exercise more often. Nonprofits often recruit young people and their family members to do things like:
● Build houses
● Care for public gardens
● Clean parks
● Repaint town buildings
● Packing and delivering food boxes
This idea is excellent for young people with little to no interest in athletics. They’ll meet new friends and even gain experience for their college applications while improving their mental health.
Babysit Neighbors or Family Members
Older kids could get CPR certification and babysitting training to offer their time to friends and family members. Hanging out with the little ones they babysit requires playing in the backyard and other physical activities, like hide-and-seek. It’s a fun way to get moving, earn some extra cash, and gain skills necessary for later careers and family life.
Play Movement-Focused Video Games
Many video games require players to get on their feet. Look for consoles with controllers that sense movement. A refurbished Wii, Nintendo Switch or VR headset creates new possibilities for exercising at home. Kids may have more fun on rainy days by playing tennis, bowling and even boxing in their living room. A 10- or 15-minute timer guarantees a quick workout and immediate mental health benefits.
What Affects a Child’s Mental Health?
Sometimes, a child might have worsened mental health than in previous days or weeks. Parents can consider if these common factors are affecting their child’s mental health to better gauge when and how to help their little one when they need it most.
Getting an education causes stress for kids of all ages. They’re stretching their brains with new concepts for hours while trying to remember everything and get excellent grades. As they get older, kids and teens may worry about how their academic history will impact their college acceptance rates, which changes the course of their future.
Participating in group sports has been shown to help students improve their confidence and strategic thinking. The competitive atmosphere provides a safe environment where kids can embrace the social encouragement to succeed without the risk of failure they may associate with schooling.
It’s crucial for parents to keep an eye on their child’s school-related stress. When it starts adding up, discussing what’s on their mind and exercising together could make life much easier as they move through each academic year.
Social anxiety is an influencing factor for kids as soon as they start making friends. Young children might stress how they have fun with their friends at school, while older kids and teens struggle with social judgments and nerves.
These factors and others specific to each child’s life can influence the intensity of their anxiety or depression. Exercise is an excellent way to bring everyone in their social group together and temporarily relieve the tension created by social stress. Afterward, the kids may be in a better mental health space to work through whatever’s on their minds.
Even the happiest families go through periods of tension at home. Disagreements, fights, miscommunication and grudges complicate how comfortable a child feels around their family. Although exercise won’t solve those challenges alone, it can make kids and parents feel more at ease before working together to solve their family tension.
Other Mental Health Resources for Kids
Physical activities are excellent ways for kids to improve their mental health, but it’s vital for parents to include other options too. Check out a few ways for kids to get mental health assistance and create a well-rounded approach to their comprehensive well-being.
Licensed therapists help kids each day. They train in subjects like family trauma, behavioral adaptation, developmental processing and social adjustment to help children of all ages. Parents could bring their child to a therapist for more personalized help. They’ll gain a safe space to learn how their minds work and improve their mental health while having more physically active fun at home.
People become happier when they feel a sense of belonging in their community. Children function in the same way. They want to know people love and accept them in their hometown. Community activities create that sense of belonging, so depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions can’t wield isolation as a negative influence.
Kids could join extracurricular groups to find out how they fit in. Vocal groups, art classes, library events and craft clubs allow children to learn what they love. Once they know what they’re passionate about, kids will find others who share that love and know where they belong outside their family units.
More Nutritious Diets
The brain and body need a healthy diet to function properly. Without essential vitamins and minerals, a child’s brain doesn’t have enough fuel to thrive. It may save its energy for vital functions like focusing and remembering while mood regulation suffers.
There isn’t a singular solution to a child’s weakened mental health. Eating more fruits and vegetables or taking a daily vitamin likely won’t be enough to resolve their depression or anxiety. However, they can be a significant source of help. If a child has a well-rounded diet and gets the nutrients their brain needs to thrive, they’ll have more energy to try new things and an easier time regulating their moods.
Help Kids and Their Mental Health
Once parents examine the impact of children’s fitness on their mental health, it’s easier to create an actionable plan to help little ones with depression or anxiety. Trying new activities, making exercise a group activity and making simple changes at home help kids feel a greater sense of well-being. In addition to resources like therapists, young people can improve their mental health no matter their struggles.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer and editor at Modded, where he passionately explores the intricate connections between physical health, mental well-being, and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for crafting engaging content, Jack’s articles offer valuable insights into living a balanced and fulfilling life.