Exercise and mental health for children

Many people know about the positive effect exercise can have on a person's mental wellbeing and so following Children's Mental Health Week, I thought I would talk about the subject.

Many children in today's society don't get as much exercise as they could. P.E at schools is limited to a couple of hours a week and computers and video games contribute to inactivity. That's not to say that video games are bad. I have been playing them since the days of the Commodore 64 (yes, I’m that old!) and still managed to do gymnastics, basketball, football and long distance running over the years. The key is balance.

As a father and fitness professional, people often assume my kids are very active, and while I have always encouraged them to be so, it’s not always the case. My daughter hates doing PE at school, but that has little to do with her abilities and much to do with fear of failure in front of her peers, something that also affects her mental health significantly. She has struggled with the move from primary to secondary school, along with all the things that come with adolescence.

As a parent, it can be difficult to accept that there isn’t much you can do. With the rise of the internet, peer pressure and cyberbullying has increased, but so has the amount of resources aimed at helping young people cope with depression and mental illness. Young Minds and the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) are both full of helpful information for young people and adults.

Outside of school, my daughter enjoys climbing and swimming, and there's a noticeable lift in her mood both during and after these activities. Even just going out to the park and throwing a ball or frisbee around can make a huge difference.

As with anyone it’s all about finding an activity they will enjoy, whether that’s a team sport, going for a run or even a fitness dvd in the living room, a bit of movement and getting the heart pumping faster will release the endorphins and lift their mood. Hopefully, it will be something they want to keep doing!