A Norwegian study released in January looked at 700 children and the effects that exercise had on them when it came to depression. The

researchers looked at kids ages 6, 8 and ten years old over a four-year period and  discovered that kids who got regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise were less likely to develop depression.

Previous studies evaluating physical activity and depression in adolescents and adults have found similar findings, but per the researchers, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, this is the first time this is suggested in children.

The study raises two questions. First, can physical activity be used to treat children who have depression, and second, can physical activity in children prevent depression. More studies certainly are needed for more definitive answers on the relationship between physical activity and depression, but what we can take away from this study is the mere fact that we have one more reason to keep kids active.

Here are some things that parents can do to keep their children active:

  • Encourage your child to join a sports team at school and to put their best effort into gym class. Remind them that joining an intramural sport is as good as participating in a team.
  • Encourage kids to get active after school. Bike riding, skateboarding, a good-ole fashion pick-up baseball game or just playing outside are all positive ways to keep kids active.
  • Discourage kids from coming right in after school and going to watch television or get on the computer.
  • Make sure to set a good example. Children often watch what their parents do. Get outside with them and throw a ball, play hop-scotch, go to the track and run with your son, or bike ride with your daughter.
  • Have children help with chores. When it snows get them out with a snow shovel. Encourage them to help with yard work. Have them help wash the car, bring in the groceries and vacuum. And when they run out of things to do at home, surely grandma has something they can do.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also has guidelines for keeping kids active. You can read them here.

One final note, this study should not scare parents into worrying about their child becoming depressed if they don’t get enough exercise. According to the study, lack of exercise is not a precursor to depression. Also, we should remember exercise is a short-term fix as the majority of depressed children are usually caught up in unsolvable family conflicts or are being treated in a way that induces depression in the first place. Some sort of therapy is a must.

Click here to read the study published in Pediatrics, January 2017.

The information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription.