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  • Writer's pictureIshika Thanvi

Research Proves Physical Exercise Improves Mental Health of Adolescents

Have you ever felt emotionally drained, as if the weight of the world rests solely on your shoulders? It's a sentiment many of us are familiar with, and often, well-meaning friends might suggest taking a walk, going to the gym, or even joining a Pilates class to alleviate those heavy feelings. Surprisingly, their advice holds more significance than we might realise.

Physica Exercise improves Mental Health

A groundbreaking study published in JAMA Pediatrics proves what many have suspected for years: exercise serves as a formidable defence against anxiety, depression, and attention challenges. This research adds another layer to the growing body of evidence supporting the profound impact of physical activity on mental well-being. The study conducted by researchers in Taiwan sheds light on the crucial relationship between physical fitness and mental health in children and adolescents. The findings, published in a journal article, reveal that enhanced performance in cardiovascular activities, strength, and muscular endurance correlates with a lower risk of mental health disorders among youth. This connection, described as "dose-dependent," suggests that higher levels of physical fitness could mitigate the onset of such conditions.

The risk of mental health disorders was evaluated in relation to three key metrics of physical fitness: cardio fitness, muscle endurance, and muscle power. Notably, improvements in each of these areas were associated with a decreased risk of mental health issues. For example, in girls, a reduction in 800-metre run time correlated with lower risks of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

Similarly, in boys, a decrease in anxiety and the risk of disorders was linked to improved cardio fitness. The study highlights the importance of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness as protective factors against mental health disorders in young individuals. Unlike previous research heavily reliant on subjective assessments, this study utilised objective standards and independent evaluations, enhancing the credibility of its findings.

According to the Association of Applied Sports Psychology, these are some benefits of exercise:

  • Reduced stress as well as an improved ability to cope with stress

  • Improved self-esteem

  • Increased feelings of energy

  • Decreased symptoms associated with depression

The level of exercise required to reap these psychological benefits varies, but even short bouts of low-intensity activity can have a positive impact. For example:

  • Just walking or 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve mood and increase energy levels.

  • For more lasting effects, a regimen of at least three sessions per week, each lasting 30 minutes at a moderate intensity, is recommended.

  • Longer-term programmes extending beyond 10 weeks are particularly effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

As individuals experience the psychological benefits of exercise, they will likely be motivated to continue their physical activity routines. By incorporating regular exercise into their lives, individuals can improve their physical health and enhance their mental well-being, leading to a happier and more fulfilling lifestyle.


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