Active childhood equals more mentally health adulthood

Being physically active in childhood could protect against depression later in life

By Liz Lockhart

A study of 2152 men and women in Australia has revealed a link between low levels of physical activity in childhood and depression.  The researchers found that those who reported little physical activity in childhood were 35% more likely to suffer from depression later in life, against those with a high childhood activity level.

Dr Felice Jacka, lead researcher of this study, from Deakin’s School of Medicine, Geelong, explained fitness and childhood physically active  could be instrumental to mental health later in life.

Jacka says: “The results of our study suggest that physical activity may protect against the development of depression and supports the encouragement of regular physical activity in children,”

She explains that activities and sports not only help improve the functions of organs such as the brain, but they give children problem solving abilities as well as social support and feeling a valued member of a team or community. She says: “Involvement in sport is known to influence the development of important coping and stress management skills.

“Conversely, low levels of physical activity are linked with lower levels of social support in young adults which may influence risk factors for depression over one’s life.”

The study is published in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport published by Sports Medicine Australia.

Mental Healthy advocates the importance of physical activity to improve mental health in general.  The younger you are when you start the better.  Sport can be a social activity too teaching young people the skills required to interact with others later in life. 

Another benefit of physical activity for children is, of course, the connection between exercise and weight.  At a time when Britain is reporting high levels of obesity in children the promotion of exercise seems to have an all round beneficial effect as well as being fun and in many instances free.

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