Keeping Your Kids Active When They Are Learning From Home
By Amanda Mittleman, MS
Back to school, 2020 is unique this fall. Huntington Beach kids will be learning from home again and all school events and sports are postponed until December. Parents who are normally thrilled for back to school are now wondering how they will fulfill the roles of homework facilitator, head of entertainment, happiness director and parent for antsy, bored, frustrated kids at home. This is all in addition to work and other responsibilities.
If you’re a parent, you may feel like hiding in a closet with a bottle of wine, but unfortunately that would only make things harder. Wayne Dyer said it best, “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always a choice.”
One of the best actions parents can take for their kids right now is to keep them physically active.
Parents of athletes have an opportunity to utilize September through December to enroll your young athletes into training programs, which allow for social distancing, to continue building their power, coordination and overall strength.
Don’t rely on what you believe may be natural talent to stay ahead and vice versa, don’t allow your teen’s seeming lack of interest in his sport right now to deter you from using this extra time as an opportunity for your athlete to get stronger, faster and to keep his/her momentum.
Kids are resilient; however, intense training for a sport three weeks before the season, when all the other athletes have been training harder than ever during the time away from school, is going to leave your athlete behind and frustrated.
It’s Not Only Athletes Who Need to Stay Active in the Fall
One of the best things parents can do for their kids, athletes or not, is to help them develop (or maintain) an exercise habit. Kids of all ages need extra care and an outlet right now more than ever before. Adults are struggling with the stresses accompanying the pandemic, quarantine and political environment. This means our kids are feeling these same stressors at exceptional levels since they can often lack the skills required to handle the extraordinary stresses we are all facing today.
Regular exercise has significant benefits for kids’ overall health and brain development for the long term. The area responsible for judgement and making decisions, called the pre-frontal cortex doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s. This means your teenager’s brain is still developing throughout his/her adolescent years, making her (and him) vulnerable to intense emotions and not so great impulse decisions.
Feeling disconnected is another significant factor that can lead to depression for adults and especially teenagers.
A large body of research indicates that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants. The reverse is also true, physical inactivity is associated with depression and other psychological disorders. It’s also a social activity.
Multiple studies show that exercise benefits mental health for teenagers in many impactful ways:
- Raises serotonin levels, a chemical that helps regulate mood and mental health;
- Releases endorphins, the body’s natural “happy chemicals”;
- Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as raises the body’s ability to handle stress;
- Stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps improve mood;
- Increases self-esteem and body positivity; and,
- Helps teens sleep well.
Most Types of Physical Activity Are Beneficial
A small study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine showed that regular exercise decreased anxiety symptoms. In this study, researchers had participants with major depressive disorder exercise regularly for 12 weeks and after the 12 weeks they found that the participants were no longer meeting the requirements to be categorized as depressed2.
Evidence also shows that teen athletics are particularly supportive, on many levels.
According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, students in eighth through twelfth grade, who play team sports are better able to handle stress and experience lower rates of depression as young adults. Teens that play in sports also have greater critical-thinking and judgement skills, cognitive function and they gain confidence as well 1.
In 2015 a meta-analysis of studies that looked at the effects of physical activity in populations of people without clinical diagnosis of depression or anxiety (non-clinical population) was published in the Health Psychology Review. The meta-analysis was based on 92 studies with 4,310 participants focused on the effect of physical activity on depression and 306 studies with 10,755 participants focused on the effects of physical activity on anxiety. Findings from the meta-analysis represented comprehensive evidence that physical activity in fact reduces depression and anxiety in populations who are not clinically diagnosed with depression3. Of course, keep in mind, if you believe your child needs medical attention for depression, always seek out medical attention from doctors you trust.
Today, stress is at an all-time high for adults and teens and even younger kids because they are sensitive to their parents’ stress. It will be very helpful for your kids and yourself to invest in your kid’s health (and your own health as well) by keeping your kids (and yourself) physically active. Another reason to get your kids moving is that they will be sitting in front of a computer all day for school online. If your kids spend their spare time playing video games and watching TV, you will have a completely sedentary child (children/teens) on your hands between school and extracurricular inactivity. Keep your kids active, start today!
To help we have created a Teen Sports Performance program at Mo-Mentum Fitness! Check out the details here: TEEN SPORTS PERFORMANCE TRAINING
- Jewett, Rachel et al. “School sport participation during adolescence and mental health in early adulthood.” The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 55,5 (2014): 640-4. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.04.018).
- Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM. Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2011;41(1):15-28. doi:10.2190/PM.41.1.c.
- Rebar, Amanda L et al. “A meta-meta-analysis of the effect of physical activity on depression and anxiety in non-clinical adult populations.” Health psychology review 9,3 (2015): 366-78. doi:10.1080/17437199.2015.1022901.