We like to think that children (and teens) are content and playful. But they are as likely to suffer from depression as any adult. In fact, experts say depression affects 20% of our population at some point in their lives. And it can be debilitating for kids. Symptoms include a persistent sad or anxious mood; loss of interest in their otherwise favourite activities; insomnia, or over-sleeping; feelings of worthlessness; either a complete loss of appetite, or “emotional” over-eating; and a deterioration of their friendships and other social relationships.
We know that exercise is a simple but very powerful tool for managing or preventing depression. It releases endorphins (the body’s natural happy hormones) and purges the body of toxins that are believed to cause depression. It sets the stage for a good night’s sleep, too; and it boosts self-esteem.
The question is, what kind of exercise should you sign your kid up for, if you suspect he’s depressed?
Here’s what our experts recommend:
1. Team sports
If you’ve ever played a team sport of any kind, then you understand the cameraderie that goes with it. Your team mates easily become friends – a very powerful support network. And consider this fact: This specific support network values you for your skills, talents and contributions. “In combating symptoms of depression,” says Dr Catherine Sabiston, “there are clear positive benefits from team sports like basketball, soccer, football, and hockey.”
Researchers have found that the meditative nature of Yoga is effective in managing depression. It’s also very good at bashing down stress, which can make depression that much worse.
If you’ve ever danced around in your underwear, to a favourite tune, then you know the feeling of euphoria that dancing can evoke. Dancing also gives the dancer a more positive body image (hello, self-esteem!).
Heard of runners “high”? It’s real. And it has to do with the heart-pumping release of endorphins that are part and parcel of a good run. Says Dr Mercola: “rRegular exercise is one of the “secret weapons” to overcoming depression. It works so well because it helps to normalize insulin resistance while boosting “feel good” hormones in your brain.”
5. Martial arts
Here’s a sport that calls for serious discipline and self-control, as well as plenty of self-respect. This sport is shown to boost self-esteem and mental health. Because you can’t really be depressed when you finally achieve black belt status, right?
Many of these sports are accessible at a local gym, recreation centre (or perhaps you child’s school).
If you’re passionate about the magical role that sports and exercise plays in the lives of children, then consider a career as a specialist sports coach for kids. Trifocus Fitness Academy offers a Comprehensive Certification in Exercise for Children. Click here to find out more.