June 19th, 2024

Viva Vitality: Physical activity is good for your mental health

By Medicine Hat News on June 15, 2018.

We know that physical activity supports our physical health, but did you know that physical activity can also improve mental health? In a world where digital devices keep social pressures constantly in their back pockets, and competing priorities from school, work, and activities demand the attention of our teens, exercise might be their best defence against stress and anxiety.

Exercise has a chemical effect in the brain that can help reduce stress, anxiety, and fight depression. By stimulating the release of feel-good hormones (endorphins) and reducing levels of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), exercise can do some amazing things for our mood! According to the Canadian Psychological Association, these are some noticeable benefits of exercise on teen mental health:

— Boosts academic performance

— Increases self-reported happiness and lower levels of sadness and loneliness, both in the short term and later in life

— Reduces feelings of fatigue, improves sleep quality, and lowers risk of insomnia (provided physical activity is not done too soon before bed)

— Boosts self-esteem from early childhood straight through older adulthood

So, how much exercise is recommended? The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth recommend accumulating 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, as well as several hours of light physical activity throughout the day. Here are some easy ways to support your teen’s mental health through physical activity:

— Encourage them to take 5-10 minute walking breaks during study sessions

— Drop them off a few blocks from school or encourage them to walk from home

— Encourage them to go for a walk during their noon-hour break

— Plan family outings (e.g. nature walks, tennis matches, playing catch)

Remember that all activity is good activity, and getting active for just five minutes can help boost your teen’s mental health. Start small, and do it often.

Desirea Agar is a health promotion coordinator at Medicine Hat Community Health Services and can be reached at 403-502-1418 or desirea.agar@ahs.ca

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