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Fitness & Nutrition

Doing This One Thing May Improve Kids’ Mental Health

By on 04/15/2022

Are your kids feeling down or struggling to adapt to the new normal we’re living in? If so, they’re certainly not alone. Many kids are experiencing stress, anxiety and depression due to changes at home and school during the pandemic. One way to help them better handle these feelings is to encourage them to move more.

There’s plenty of research backing the many benefits of exercise when it comes to physical health. But its benefits don’t stop there. A review of 114 studies showed that physical activity in children and adolescents (ages 6 to 18) had a positive effect on their mental health. The effects were greater for adolescents than younger children. Kids who exercised more had lower levels of stress and depression. They also had higher levels of psychological well-being, a more positive self-image and better life satisfaction.

Kids and teens should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here are 5 ways parents can help their kids move more:

  1. Find the fun. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore, especially for kids. Find what makes them happy and create a way to be physically active around it. If your child loves to dance, put on some music and have a dance party. Have animal lovers in your house? Plan a day to walk around the zoo.
  2. Make it part of your routine. Schedule physical activity into your calendar as a family so it becomes something you all do together. Get in the habit of taking a walk before dinner or biking in the park on weekend afternoons.
  3. Be a role model. Kids are more likely to be physically active if they see their parents or caregivers exercising. Up your physical activity and you may find it easier to get kids and teens to move more, too.
  4. Motivate and encourage. What gets your kids excited to do something? Some like a bit of competition. Others enjoy working toward a weekly goal, especially if there’s a reward for meeting that goal. If you find it hard to get kids to move more on their own, find a way to motivate them to want to do it.
  5. Focus on progress, not perfection. You don’t have to get kids running or biking for 60 minutes every day for it to count as exercise. Start small and build from there. Recognize that some days will be harder than others to fit in physical activity. Adapt what your expectation of exercise is—anything that gets the body moving counts.

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Date Last Reviewed: February 16, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

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