Physical Activity for Adolescent Mental Health

Exercise-for-Adolescent-mental-health

Many new and unique challenges have presented this past year. Of recent focus has been the challenge of maintaining good Physical and Mental Health in this new, socially distanced world. In light of both the Federal and State governments recent announcements regarding increases in Mental Health funding and support of the coming months and years, it is important to recognise the relationship between both Physical and Mental health, especially in Youth and Adolescents.

Adolescence is a period of time involving significant physical, mental and social changes. It is a period of our lives when we try to establish identities and begin to learn strategies to manage stresses and adversities. It is also a period during which the majority of Mental Health disorders emerge. In particular, depression and anxiety disorders typically emerge during adolescence and can have a significant impact on long-term health and general function.

Evidence suggests that adolescents who do not participate in any physical activity at all are over twice as likely to develop anxiety or depression as their peers who participate in daily physical activity.

In addition to the benefits on Physical Health, adolescents use social aspects of organised sport to maintain and promote Mental Health. Particularly in adolescent males, a population historically associated with higher rates of Mental Health disorders and lower rates of accessing services, organised sports have become a promising tool forr promoting good Mental Health. Increases in public awareness and media promotion, especially by elite athletes, has resulted in this group expressing a desire to become better informed and better able to help and support friends and teammates.

More recent evidence is demonstrating a shift in prevalence from male to female, with adolescent females reported to be twice as likely to develop a Mental illness as their male counterparts. Studies have demonstrated no difference in the positive effects of Physical activity on Mental Health, showing preventative and promotive effects regardless of gender. Whilst it is only one factor influencing female Mental Health, data consistently shows adolescent females engaging in less Physical activity than male counterparts and with a greater decline throughout adolescence.

In our current lockdown, it is important for adolescents to remain physically active on a regular basis. For not only Physical Health, but also Mental Health, regular activity and exercise should become a regular part of daily routine. The Department of Health’s guidelines for physical activity recommend children and young people (5-17 years of age) participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on a daily basis. Unfortunately, due to the current need to maintain social distancing, organised sport and group exercise is not achievable. However, current restrictions do permit up to one hour of outdoor exercise each day (https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/sport-and-exercise-metropolitan-melbourne-covid-19). And of course, exercising at home is unrestricted.

Whilst we are currently unable to run our Youth Strength and Conditioning classes out of our Olinda studio (for more information, see https://formandpractice.com.au/youth-strength-and-conditioning/), we are still available to conduct an assessment and provide any strengthening or exercise program, or answer any questions or concerns you may have about engaging in your own exercise.

For more information and resources see:
Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
www.lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue – 1800 512 348
https://coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au
Headspace
https://headspace.org.au/

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