Go Out and Play: Benefits of Physical Activity for Anxious Children

summer playSummertime is a notorious time for lazy, hazy days. But if your anxious child’s summer schedule is too lazy, he or she can end up with greater levels of anxiety. One of the top benefits of physical activity for anxious children, or anyone, is its keen ability to reduce stress and anxiety. And there is a lineup of other reasons why your anxious child should be outside playing instead of inside vegetating in front of the video game or TV. 

Decreases Anxiety, Improves Mental Health 

Your child’s mental health can improve with regular physical activity, reports Bright Futures, Georgetown University’s health promotion initiative for children. In addition to reducing levels of anxiety and stress, exercise has the potential power to improve your child’s self-esteem, enhance mood and decrease symptoms of depression. The latter especially holds true for children with developmental disabilities and emotional disorders. 

Healthcare pros consistently recommend regular exercise for managing stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), and many folks take them up on it. An ADAA online poll found approximately 14 percent of survey participants use regular physical activity to beat stress, a seemingly healthier option than the 14 percent that turn to eating instead.

Boosts Brain Health (and Grades!)

Academic performance appeared to get a lift from exercise as well, according to a study scheduled to appear in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers found that exercise’s physical benefits of enhanced motor ability and cardiorespiratory capacity contributed to academic performance. Either working together or on its own, each benefit gave classroom work a boost. Exercise has also been shown to increase alertness, concentration and overall cognitive functioning.

Serves up Physical Perks

As you probably expect, your anxious child can also enjoy plenty of physical benefits from regular exercise. These include but are not limited to:

  • Proper development: Bone strength, muscle health and cardiorespiratory fitness all contribute to proper development, and exercise covers them all. Strong bones during childhood can help prevent osteoporosis down the line. Muscle flexibility, strength and endurance can decrease your anxious child’s risk of injury. And cardiorespiratory fitness can help reduce blood pressure, an important factor even for children.
  • Healthy body weight: Childhood obesity remains a heavy concern, and exercise can play an integral role in losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy physique. Exercise works off calories and increases lean muscle mass, which further fuels calorie burn. Childhood obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, both in childhood and later in adulthood.

Additional perks of regular exercise include staving off other chronic diseases, fighting fatigue, improving sleep, increasing social interaction and establishing a healthy habit that can last a lifetime. Your anxious child doesn’t need to run a marathon to enjoy the perks, either. As few as 30 minutes a day of moderate activity can bring on the benefits all summer and beyond.

For additional insights, check out Exercise for Anxious Children – Why it Matters and How to Get Kids Moving.


Photo Credit: Bill Gracey via Compfight cc