Researchers Suggest A Surprising Benefit For Kids Who Are More Active

Physical activity is often introduced to kids at a young age. Whether it's playing on the playground, joining a little league sports team, or being active in gym class, there are many options to get youth moving.

Exercise is linked to various physical benefits including strengthening the heart, reducing risk of illness, weight control, and boosting energy levels (via Parents). The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children aged 6 and older spend at least one hour each day participating in moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, including vigorous activity such as biking or running at least three days per week (per Mayo Clinic). They should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities and bone-strengthening exercises at least three days a week. Physical activities can include running, biking, jumping rope, dancing, and organized sports.

The CDC recommends age-appropriate activities to fulfill movement goals, stating that some activities are better suited for children. Younger age groups can strengthen their muscles by participating in gymnastics, playing on a jungle gym, or climbing trees. As children reach adolescence, they can participate in structured weight-lifting activities.

The mental and cognitive benefits of exercise

Physical activity not only contributes to a child's physical health, but also their mental and cognitive development and well-being. According to Healthline, experts say exercise can help build confidence, manage anxiety and depression, and increase cognitive skills. Len Saunders, a physical health educator, tells Healthline, "Exercise has a positive effect on creating mentally healthy children by releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression."

In a recent study completed by researchers in Australia, 1,200 people were studied over the course of 30 years to observe the link between childhood fitness and mental performance (via Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport). Beginning in 1985, people ages 7-15 years old were assessed for their fitness and body measurements. Thirty years later, those with higher fitness scores and lower waist-to-hip ratios as children performed better when tested on thinking skills. The study concluded that physical activity habits formed during early childhood can help people stay mentally sharp for decades (via WebMD).

According to the American Psychological Association, it is possible that exercise increases the production of dopamine and serotonin, which are mood-regulating chemicals. Parents suggests that this can lead to a boost in energy and strengthen nerve cells, which can help prevent the development of neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease. Increased serotonin levels are also linked to improved feelings of well-being and decreased feelings of depression.