Up until recently, exercise has been recommended by doctors as a means to facilitate healing. This is true of teens experiencing psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety. However, recent research has actually begun to reveal that exercise is preventative. When teens exercise on a regular basis for at least 30 minutes, exercise can actually prevent illness and disease.
A research study recently published in American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that even moderate exercise could prevent episodes of depression over the long term. The study analyzed 26 years worth of research findings, which revealed that even low levels of physical activity, such as walking for 20-30 minutes per day, could prevent depression.
As a parent of a teen, this is important information to have. Often, teens are vulnerable to emotional and psychological illnesses. They might experience depression, anxiety, or be vulnerable to addiction. In fact, some teens may even experience both an addiction and a mental illness. For instance, when a teen is suffering from depression or anxiety, they may turn to substance use as a means to feel better. Yet, fortunately, research reveals that exercise can help keep illness at bay. Of course, exercise is not going to entirely stop an illness from developing, but it can be a significant factor in preventing one.
Below are some additional benefits teens may experience if exercise were a regular part of their lifestyle:
Physical Benefits of Exercise
- Weight loss and management
- Improves circulation
- Removes toxins from the body through sweating
- Strengthens the heart
- Improves muscle strength
- Boosts energy
- More restful sleep
- Improves circulation
- Keeps bones strong
- Boosts bone mass
- Improves delivery of nutrients to your skin
- Increases the production of collagen
- Strengthens the immune system
Psychological Benefits of Exercise
- Improves self-image
- Relieves stress
- Improves mood
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Provides a healthy hobby
- Sharpens mental skills
- Positive feelings surrounding taking care of oneself
- Reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body
- Increases relaxation
- Changes the level of certain chemicals in the brain which have an effect on psychological states
Cognitive Benefits of Exercise
- Helps build new neural connections
- Strengthens the health of the brain
- Increases memory recollection
- Improves cognitive functioning
If you want to encourage your teen to exercise, here are a few suggestions for physical activity:
- Running or use of the treadmill
- Jumping rope
- Walking around the block
- Stretching or yoga
- Climbing stairs
- Using weights
- Using resistance machines or bands
It doesn’t matter how your teen engages in exercise, as long as they are moving their body and participating in cardio activity (raising the heart rate) regularly. If they are exercising on an ongoing basis, they will experience the benefits listed above.
Physical exercise can also be used as a coping mechanism, which may be a benefit parents enjoy. For instance, if you and your teen are arguing or if you were to notice that your teen is feeling agitated or frustrated, they could exercise for 30 minutes as a means to manage their emotions. Running or walking or doing yoga can be a healthy way to release anger. Vigorous exercise can be the way that your teen manages the intense emotions that are common with adolescence.
Although exercise has been proven to be very beneficial, another study found that too much exercise could also be harmful. Researchers from Switzerland and Canada published a study in the Archives of Disease and Childhood, indicating that 14 hours of physical activity a week is best for promoting good health in teenagers. Yet, at the same time, anything over 14 hours could be detrimental to their health.
Exercise is a powerful form of self-care because it has so many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits. For these reasons, parents and caregivers should encourage their teen to exercise on a regular basis. In fact, because exercise has so many benefits, researchers are continuing to explore how exercise can specifically facilitate recovery from depression and other mental illnesses.
For help with creating an exercise routine for your teen or encouraging your teen to exercise, contact a fitness instructor or health coach for support.