Physical activity may help children to cope with depression

Everyone wants that children would be healthy and happy. However, childhood depression is a thing and we have to find ways to help children through it. Now a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology revealed a simple way of keeping depression away from children – physical activity.

Intensive physical activity may help children coping with depression, as well as brings other health benefits. Image credit: Cpl. Sarah Cherry, U.S. Marine Corps via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Naturally, children want to run around, play and do sports. However, because parents are often busy and computers are taking over the usual play time activities, children are moving less and less. Now there is another reason for parents to encourage their children to exercise more – it makes them happy. Similar effects of physical activity on adults have been noticed some time ago, but children were not studied in this regard before. Scientists examined around 800 six years old and then followed up with 700 of them when they were eight and ten. They also measured their physical activity using accelerometers and interviewed their parents. This allowed them to get better idea about the patterns of children’s physical activity.

Scientists consider physical activity good when it makes children sweat or leaves them out of breath. It means that just simple walking to school or in the mall with parents does not count. Researchers found that those children, who moved more, showed fewer symptoms of depression when they were examined two years after the initial examination. Silje Steinsbekk, co-author of the study, said: “This is important to know, because it may suggest that physical activity can be used to prevent and treat depression already in childhood”. Scientists did not find depressed children to become less active over time.

Although scientists worked with a substantial data pool, it really has to be bigger in order to draw conclusions. Scientists say that bigger randomized studies are needed to find the real correlation between physical activity and symptoms of depression. It is important to note that sedentary lifestyle does not lead to depression, nor does depression lead to sedentary lifestyle. It is only that physical activity makes children happier and helps them cope with depression if they already have it.

Parents should encourage their children to move more. In fact, they should go out and run around with them too, as it is healthy for everyone.


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