Exercise for Your Mental Health 

Exercise and physical activity can have a huge impact on mental health. It has even been linked to improved concentration, attention span and academic performance.  

The Benefits of Movement 

Besides helping to reduce stress, exercise is also known to reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. By engaging in physical activity, children can learn healthy coping mechanisms and develop resilience to life’s challenges. In fact, doctors say children who are more physically active also have better academic performance, memory and improved attention.  

“Studies show that exercise leads to changes in neurons that control arousal and attention, increased levels of proteins that maintain brain health, the growth of new neurons in brain networks involved in learning and memory, and increased brain blood distribution,” says Dr. Shannon Dillon, primary care physician at Riley Children’s Health. “There is evidence connecting cardiovascular risk factors with brain health as we age. Physical activity has shown to lower rates of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline in older adults. Making physical activity a regular part of family life benefits everyone’s cognitive health in the long run!”   

Kids and Exercise 

Dillon went on to say that by engaging in physical activity, children can learn healthy coping mechanisms and develop resilience to life’s challenges 

Children who develop the habit of regular physical activity at a young age have lower rates of depression and anxiety than their less active peers,” Dillon says. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain that elevate a person’s mood along with their energy levels. These endorphins continue to release after the exercise session has ended, which can result in improved sleep, improved mood, focus and overall mental health.”    

Physical activity can also give kids a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as their skills improve and they meet milestones they might not have known they could reach. And whether children play team sports or pursue less competition-based activities like running or hiking, engaging in shared physical activity with other young people can give them a sense of community and belonging while alleviating social anxiety.   

Stay Fit, Have Fun 

Here are some fun activities for littles to consider at Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience at The Children’s Museum:  

  • Basketball: Hoops as short as 4 feet tall with small basketballs   
  • Football: Little Legends Training Zone. Kids ages 5 and younger can run through an agility course, passing wall and tiny field goal kicking area   
  • Soccer: Half of the soccer field is designated for kids 5 and younger, to allow for a safe place for young children to play. 
  • Baseball: Hit a ball off a tee at the Wiese Baseball Field and run around the bases. 
  • Golf: There’s a gated toddler course within the Pete and Alice Dye Golf Experience   

By having your child participate in exercise and fitness programs, you are helping them with their physical, mental and social well-being. Plus, you are setting the foundation for a healthy and active lifestyle for the rest of their lives! 

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