It’s well-known that exercise can help with depression. Now recent studies are making an even stronger case that exercise helps alleviate symptoms of depression in kids.
A recent study of nearly 800 kids in Norway found physical activity at ages 6-8 was linked to fewer problems with depression 2 years later.
Separately, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry last year that exercise reduced symptoms of depression in 13- to 17-year-olds.
The encouraging findings don’t suggest exercise is a magic pill for depression, but it may offer modest benefits in addition to clinical treatment.
The findings make perfect sense to Amy Chand, a youth fitness specialist in the Weight Management Clinic at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Exercise will decrease levels of stress, elevate mood, improve alertness and energy, and improve sleep,” Amy said. “It’s all kind of related.”
The research is especially relevant in light of increasing rates of depression among teens. The percentage of teens who say they experienced a major depressive episode jumped from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.5 percent in 2014, according to national data published last year.
Amy said motivating kids to adopt an exercise routine is a challenge in her clinic, where overweight kids are often depressed. But parents play a key role. “You have to be a role model,” she said. “Adults will benefit by exercising with their kids. It’s going to help everyone in the family.”
The idea of working out may not appeal to kids or their parents. But there are many activities you can do with your kids: Walking, hiking, skating, swimming or shooting baskets, for example.
Amy also recommends video options you can do at home: Active video games, streaming fitness programs and YouTube workout videos. Here are the lists she provides her patients:
Active video games
- Active Life: Outdoor Challenge
- Kinect Sports: Ultimate Collection
- Sports Champion 2
- Wii Sports Resort
- Wipeout Create & Crash
- Nickelodeon Fit
- Dance Central 3
- Just Dance Kids 2
- Everybody Dance
- Zumba Dance Kids
- We Ski & Snowboard
- Mario Power Tennis
- Outdoor Challenge
- EA Sports: Active 2
Netflix and other streaming application fitness programs/shows
- Netflix: Bo on the Go
- Netflix: Dance with Barney
- Netflix: Play with Barney
- Hulu: Movin and Groovin with Barney
- Hulu: Barney, Shake your Dino Tail
- Hulu: Ready, Steady, Wiggle
- HBOGO: Sesame Street Classics, Episode 3137
- Amazon Prime: Step Up Revolution Dance Workout
- Amazon FireStick: Daily Burn
- Kids Workout 2 (22 minutes) – cardio
- Kids Workout Video (16 minutes) – cardio
- Kids Dance – Workout – Lose Weight (19 minutes) – dance
- Kids Yoga – Kids Exercise Video (15 minutes) – yoga
- Fitness Blender Kids Workout (25 minutes) – good for little kids, families and beginners
- Preschool Curious George Book and Workout Video (20 minutes)
- Fun Yoga for Kids (52 minutes)
- Yuvi (9 minutes) – story aerobics for kids
- Animal Exercises for Kids (7 minutes)