A major new review suggests that an antidote to teen depression can be found in school gyms and on sports grounds.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to do enough studies together to be able to come up with a good conclusion to answer the question, ‘Are physical activity and exercise good for children with ADHD? Symptoms of depressionsaid the joint study author Walter Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Physiology with Georgia State University in Atlanta. The answer is an overwhelming yes.
What’s more, the data suggests the exact dose of exercise that will yield the greatest benefit for children: About an hour of physical activity three days a week provides the best relief for depressive symptoms.
“You know, that’s pretty close to what’s recommended by the federal government as regular exercise for kids and adults, somewhere between 75 and 150 minutes a week,” Thompson said.
The study also found that exercise programs of less than 12 weeks duration produced greater benefits — perhaps because such a precisely defined program allows participants a positive sense of fulfillment and achievement, according to editorial Co-author: Eduardo BustamanteAssistant Professor of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
“Our physical activity programs reduce symptoms of depression without us even trying,” Bustamante said. “We get this effect without explicitly trying to reduce depression.”
These findings provide a possible response to mental health crisis This has been affecting American teens and young adults in the wake of the pandemic and other major societal shifts.
In background notes, the study authors said that depression is the second most common mental disorder among children and adolescents, and is a strong predictor of future mental disorders and suicide.
The researchers said that up to 67% of young adults with depressive symptoms are at risk of developing full-blown depression or anxiety in adulthood.
Teens benefited the most
For the study, the research team pooled data from 21 previous clinical trials in which children and adolescents participated in physical activity programs.
The trials may have been intended to study something other than mental health — for example, obesity, educational success or ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) — but they all included tools that rated participants’ depressive symptoms.
The researchers found that the greatest benefit occurred in participants over the age of 13.
That makes sense, Thompson said, given that states generally are phasing out their physical education requirements around fifth grade.
“About 12 years old, once the baby is in middle SchoolThompson said, there is no longer a requirement for physical education. “What this means is that they are not getting the structured physical activity that younger children do. So what we are seeing is an increase in depressive symptoms, which translates into a clinical diagnosis of depression, which then follows through high school and into adulthood.”
The analysis, published online Jan. 3 in JAMA Pediatricsalso revealed a greater benefit from exercise among children previously diagnosed with depression or another mental illness.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” he said. Dr. Anish DubeyChairman of the American Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Their Families.
One of the most prominent symptoms [of depression] It can be physical lethargy or lethargy, lack of desire to do something. “So in a sense, the physical activity itself is like an intervention that we call behavioral activation,” where patients engage in activities to subvert that depressive lethargy.
Experts said there are several reasons why physical activity may help relieve depression.
Thompson said exercise releases brain hormones called endorphins that promote feelings of well-being and improve mood.
The experts added that physical activity can make a child feel better by making their bodies healthier and promoting high-quality sleep.
Exercise boosts brain power and social skills
What’s more, exercise promotes brain health, Bustamante said.
“We have evidence that when children exercise, they [brain] White matter improves, Bustamante explained, so the parts of the brain that communicate between regions become kind of more connected and more efficient. “We have data that see more activation in regions relevant to the cognitive task at hand. So, the parts of children’s brains that are responsible for focus are more active after exercise.”
The exercises are also likely to make children feel better because they interact with other children and adults, and take their minds off their problems. Mitch Bernsteina developmental psychologist and chief science officer of the American Psychological Association.
“When we work out, we tend to think of nothing but exercise because it’s physically taxing on our bodies, and that’s a good thing,” said Princestein. “This promotes mindfulness and a conscious awareness of the here and now. This sometimes gets us out of a way of ruminating more when we’re feeling depressed, which is kind of overthinking, worrying, or worrying about recent stressors.”
However, Thompson and the other experts note that these results came mostly from structured, supervised exercise programs.
“It’s easy for us to say go outside and play, but we don’t know what that means,” Thompson said. “Some kids will go outside and their idea of playing is using their phone.”
Thompson encourages parents to go to their children’s school and make sure they are enrolled in physical education classes or extracurricular sports, so they can develop healthy habits that will follow them into adulthood.
Although middle and high school students are often not required to take it physical education classesMany schools, Thompson said, offer classes as an option.
“Tennis requires skill, but where do you learn that? Well, a great place to learn that skill for a lifelong dedication to the sport is in middle school and High schoolThompson said.
“If you’re a parent and you’re physically active, chances are your child will be physically active,” Thompson said. “If you’ve got a peloton in the basement and you’re stepping away from the pedal and a kid comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, that looks fun,’ invite them in, too.”
Harvard Medical School has more on it Exercise as a treatment for depression.
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