If you have ever watched a child that has to sit still for any length of time, you understand that children are made to move. Movement is vital for their physical development. It helps their bones to get strong and their muscles to grow. However, it is not just physically that children benefit from movement.
A study of children in Trondheim, Norway, found an association between physical activity and child depression. Children who participated in more moderate to vigorous activity had fewer symptoms of major depression. Moderate to vigorous activity in children can be walking, running or bicycling as children do in playing games, doing chores or going to school. The researchers in this study came to the conclusion that physical activity may be useful in prevention and treatment of depression in children.
Another study of children with mental health disabilities found that exercise helped to improve classroom behavior. The children used bicycles twice a week for 30 – 40 minutes. The benefits in classroom behavior were most pronounced on the exercise days, but were even seen on the other days of the week. As the researchers state, this type of help offered to children with complex behavioral disorders could be done “without increasing parental burden or health care costs or disrupting academic schedules.”
These two studies show that increased physical activity in children benefits not only muscles and bones, but also their mental and emotional health. Children are made to move! Let’s help them get moving!
How much physical activity do children need?
According to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012, children need at least 60 minutes of moderate to intensive activity per day. Do you need some ideas on what children can do to get active? Check out the list below:
Activities for City Parks
Playing in the leaves
Playing in the playgrounds
Flying a kite
Activities for Home Gardens
Hide and Seek
Horseback rides (on the parents backs)
Splashing in a wading pool
Bicycling to school or work
Walking a dog
Sweeping the balcony or porch and walkway
Bowling, A., Slavet, J., Miller, D.P., et al. (2017). Cybercycling Effects on Classroom Behavior in Children With Behavioral Health Disorders: An RCT. Pediatrics, 2017;139(2):e20161985
Zahl, T., Steinsbekk, S., Wichstrøm, L. (2017). Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Symptoms of Major Depression in Middle Childhood. Pediatrics. 2017;139(2):e20161711