It is no secret that exercise and physical activity are beneficial to a child’s health. The US Department of Health recommends that children get at least one hour of physical activity a day, in order to combat obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other medical problems. However, physical benefits are not the only reason why children need exercise on a consistent basis. Many studies increasingly show that there is a positive correlation between a child’s physical activity and his or her mental development; in fact, physical activity has a three-fold benefit to mental development: social, academic, and mental health.
Social Benefits of Physical Activity
When children are involved in organized sports or exposed to an organized physical education class in school, the basic values they learned in the sandbox all those years ago are further emphasized: sharing, working together, and celebrating together are all essential components of team sports and organized play. Working together and seeing such work pay off helps strengthen a child’s relationships with his or her peers, and gives him or her something to bond over with other children. Therefore, the social aspect of certain physical activities help to develop a child’s sense of camaraderie, and teaches them positive values. These values are then carried with the child throughout life.
According to a study by the Delaware Department of Education, it is also true that physical activity has a positive impact on a child’s performance in school. The study concluded that, “students who are physically fit are more likely to perform well and to behave well in school – regardless of their gender, race, family income or school district.” John Ratey, MD, co-author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, explains that during physical activity, the brain produces a protein called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor, that builds nerve-cell connections. The stronger these connections become, as a result of continued physical activity, the easier it is for children to understand as well as retain information.
Mental Health Benefits
Finally, physical activity has a positive effect on a child’s mental health. Perhaps you’ve experienced having a particularly stressful day at work, and decided to blow off some steam with an afternoon run. Afterwards, you feel refreshed, your mood elevated. The same holds true for children. Physical activity can impact a child’s mood, as well as his or her motivation and focus. Not only is exercise an important aspect of your child’s physical development, it is a crucial element to his or her mental development. As a result of consistent physical activity, children are likely to perform better in school, learn social lessons and gain friendships, and be more mentally healthy, all of which are important to setting them up for successful futures.
This article was written on behalf of JumpBunch, a mobile sports & fitness program for kids. Be sure to visit JumpBunch online for resources for parents, coaches, and educators, and to find a location near you.