According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are a tremendous amount of benefits to exercising for adolescents including maintaining a healthy weight and the prevention of certain diseases later in life. Additionally, exercise provides better academic performance and the creation of a lifetime of healthy habits.
In addition to physical health benefits, adolescents who exercise also experience benefits to their mental health. Exercise can lead to lower rates of depression. These lower rates can be attributed to the fact that adolescents who exercise have a higher self-esteem which is linked to lower levels of depression. It is noted that this can be especially important for adolescent girls who tend to experience more depression than adolescent boys.
A recent publication by the Harvard Medical School evaluates a study that supports the idea that exercise is good for adolescent mental health. Particularly for those already receiving formal treatment. What they found was that for those adolescents the addition of exercise leads to a moderate improvement in their depression.
Based on the results, while exercise can help a depressed adolescent, it is not necessarily a substitute for more formal treatment. We should also note that this is referring to a healthy amount of exercise. During its Risky Business campaign, Mental Health America has discussed exercise extremes.
These extremes include those that don’t exercise enough and those that exercise too much. Let’s explore this as it relates to adolescents so parents can be aware of a healthy amount of exercise for their teens since we know that can positivity impact their mental health.
A person that does not exercise enough has an increased risk for certain physical health issues, but it can also contribute to depression and anxiety.
On the other extreme is someone who compulsively exercises. A compulsive exerciser or one that is addicted to exercising will miss out on obligations. If they do miss a workout, it can lead to feelings of guilt and/or sadness. Additionally, they may continue to exercise despite an injury or illness.
If your teen is not getting enough exercise, here are some ways to encourage them to begin an exercise program.
- First, speak with your family doctor and make sure there are no special considerations to consider before beginning an exercise regimen.
- Begin at a slow pace and gradually work up to more difficult activities.
- Get someone like a friend or relative to join so that they can motivate and hold one another accountable.
If you have a teen that is a compulsive exerciser you can help them take control and get into a healthier workout regimen.
- Change up workout routine to include less strenuous workouts or take days off from working out altogether.
- Discuss healthy body types.
- Make sure your teen is getting adequate nutrition from the food they are eating.
- Don’t allow negative self-talk. For example, putting down their body type or thinking they are lazy.
- Encourage a discussion about healthy exercise habits and ask your teen if they are struggling with what that is.
If your teen is struggling with either compulsive exercising or depression, know when to seek the help of a mental health professional.
Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25-year olds and their families specializing in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety/OCD, substance abuse, depression, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.