Two children happily run in a field on a fall day, with their backs to the camera.

Study shows being active reduces symptoms of depression in kids

Care for children’s mental health could be found in your own backyard.

The Globe and Mail recently reported on a multi-year study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) where researchers found that physically active kids had fewer symptoms of depression.

According to the article, these new findings add to the growing list of physical activity benefits, including decreased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and increased measures of self-esteem.

Outdoor play time, specifically activities that make kids sweaty or out of breath, were linked with fewer depressive symptoms as reported by children’s parents.

“Being active, getting sweaty and roughhousing offer more than just physical health benefits. They also protect against depression,” Tonje Zahl, PhD candidate at NTNU and author of the study’s findings, said in a press release.

According to the study’s researchers, it’s not enough for caregivers to limit screen time. Instead, the goal should be to facilitate more moderate to vigorous physical activity, at least one hour per day for kids between the ages of 5 and 17.

The concept is supported by new research conducted at the University of Alberta, which evaluated 40 earlier studies looking at the association between physical activity and depression. The researchers found support for the link between the two. “Greater physical activity means less risk for depression,” explained co-author Sheri Madigan.

And if the one hour of daily activity seems daunting, don’t be intimidated. Through daily free play or well-designed sport programs, it’s easy for children to meet the 60-minute physical activity guidelines. Active for Life senior editor @grovecoach breaks down the recommendations to help you understand more about what types of activities qualify as moderate-to-vigorous.

Kids that are healthy and happy. What could be better?

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