Building healthy young minds through exercise
Children are naturally more physically active than adults. They are full of energy, recover quickly from exercise and have a constant need to explore the world around them. Historically, this has meant that youths are easily able to maintain a healthy weight, but this is no longer the case as children becoming increasingly sedentary due to significant lifestyle changes. In China, more than 1 in 5 (20.3 percent) children aged 7-12 years and nearly 1 in 10 (9.6 percent) adolescents aged 13-17 years are obese, according to research published in the Annals of Human Biology.
Encouraging children to be more active can help them stay fit and healthy, but it’s just as important - if not more so - to look beyond the physical aspect. Research shows that regular exercise can boost a child’s cognitive ability in the classroom, improve mental health and develop positive character traits that will help shape who they are as a person during their precious formative years.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways exercise can fortify young minds.
Boost memory, focus and school grades
It goes without saying that education is a critical part of life for any child. A young person’s achievements in school can have a direct impact on their future educational and employment opportunities further down the track. Exercise is not a substitute for conventional studying methods, but research shows that regular physical activity does play a key role in cognitive development.
A review of 58 investigations studying the relationship between physical activity and cognitive functioning was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Investigators found that children who participated in physical activities had a better ability to focus and greater basal ganglia and hippocampus capacities (areas of the brain associated with cognitive control and memory). Some studies even showed a positive correlation between school grades and the number of hours devoted to sport. Researchers concluded that their results suggest that it is worthwhile to engage in physical activity in late childhood because it positively influences cognitive and emotional functions.
Reduce the risk of depression
It’s only recently that we’ve started to come to terms with the fact that depression, anxiety and other mental health issue can affect people of all ages - including children. These conditions can have a long-lasting effect on a child’s happiness, education and overall quality of life. A study published in 2018 indicates that 14-23 percent of children aged 10 to 15 years old in China exhibit depressive symptoms.
Increasing levels of physical activity won’t magically cure mental health problems, but it may have a role to play in helping to prevent depression. Exercise is known to increase blood circulation to the brain, release endorphins, facilitate social interaction and improve self confidence, all of which can help reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.
In a study published in the International Journal of Child, Youth & Family Studies, investigators set out to explore the effects of exercise on depression in 795 children living in Norway. The children were enrolled into the study at age six, and were monitored using an accelerometry to track physical activity, and clinical interviews to assess depressive symptoms. Researchers found that children who engaged in exercise were less likely to develop depressive symptoms over the next two years than children who lived a more sedentary lifestyle.
“Although the effect was small, our results indicate that increasing [moderate-to-vigorous physical activity] in children at the population level may prevent depression, at least at subclinical levels,” wrote the study’s authors.
A less tangible but by no means less important advantage of exercise is that it helps children develop positive character traits. Physical exercise and sport require commitment to training, an ability to listen to instructions and strong teamwork skills. These skills translate into other areas of life and can help children succeed in their education, careers and beyond.
As noted in research from the University of Calgary, there is a risk that competitive sports can lead to undesirable social behavior. As such, it’s important that parents, coaches and teachers lead with intent in order to help children learn the tenets of sportsmanship, humility, grace, and respect.
Regular exercise provides a wide range of mental and physical health benefits to adults and children alike. Encouraging children to live a more active lifestyle can go a long way toward helping youths succeed academically, maintain a healthy state of mind and develop strong character traits that will shape their future.
At World Trainer China, we are committed to supporting youth in developing both physical and mental capacity, empowering them with the strength and positive attitude to face life challenges.
Our 12-week holistic program is specially designed to promote self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and a positive mindset through physical exercises. Your child will learn about the long-term benefits of physical exercise and its fundamental importance to cognitive, emotional and physical wellbeing.
We are starting our trial run this September!
To find out more, email us at email@example.com