Monday, February 1, 2021

Children's Mental Health and Exercise: Now it's more important than ever


We all know exercise is important for our physical health, but how many of us realise that exercise is just as important for our mental health? Research has shown that exercise can improve your mood due to the fact that when we exercise, endorphins and serotonin are released. Exercising can aid with depression, anxiety and also recovery from mental health issues.

As I write this, we are approaching children’s mental health week and I am sure we have become very aware of the astonishing volume of children that are struggling emotionally, and for good reason. They have had an enormous amount of change to deal with in the last year, change that most adults are struggling to keep up with, let alone a child. A vast portion of a child’s day is now spent in front of a screen in their home. The physical play and interaction (which is vital for their wellbeing and development) that they have with their friends and peers is now limited to that of their siblings.

So, is it any wonder that children are emotional, exhibiting challenging behaviour or simply not themselves? As adults we may feel reluctant to exercise for many reasons, and at the moment with the change in routine and not being in our normal lifestyles, home-schooling and working this reluctance may be compounded and we may feel that exercise on top of all this is simply too much. However as with any of the 7 Habits of Health, the more our children see us following them, the more natural it will be for them to follow the suit.

During the first lockdown I had concerns that many children would not getting their usual levels of exercise, and that this would not only impact their physical wellbeing but their emotional wellbeing as well. Sports clubs had all stopped meeting in person and any practice was now online. While the efforts that go into online meetings can’t go unnoticed, personally I cringe every time we have to do something on Zoom. I would be bracing myself for the resistance and the questions of ‘why can’t we just go to the class?’ I soon ran out of ideas as to how to convince my children to join in with online this or that. I have to say though the difference in them after the exercise was complete was worth the battle.

When our boys returned to school in September I so grateful for the emphasis that was being put on exercise and mental health. The support was there, and still is throughout this third lockdown, even though our teachers have already worked so hard, they have somehow managed to ‘ramp up’ their efforts, so I am very proud of our community schools for that. But I do know that is not the same of all schools and that is really sad to note, children need support now more than ever. They need their exercise, that energy release, to be outdoors (yes even in this weather). Children also need the physical exercise in order to improve their learning capacity. So, if you are struggling to get your child to engage with their home schooling, one answer could be that it is time for some exercise.

Here are some great links that have been shared with us to help children emotionally (thanks to Stephanie Booth at Linton Infants' School for these):


There are many things out there to help with ensuring your children get their exercise, from online workouts to ideas for outdoor activities. It’s a good idea to mix things up and keep them interesting, that way no one gets bored and it keeps exercise fun. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and get the exercise booked into your home school/ work/ household chores timetable. Remember children can help with the chores while at home too. Regardless of your preferred method of exercise, get this habit cemented into yours and your child’s routine; it really is an important habit of health.


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