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Staying active can help kids beat depression

Harold Mandel's picture
A kid sledding

Researchers have found that kids who are physically active are not as depressed. This can be used to treat child depression.


Depression can be a very debilitating state of being for children. The increased awareness of the potential for dangerous side effects with antidepressant drugs has made natural mental health care interventions a more desirable choice for the prevention and treatment of depression in children.

There is less depression among kids who are physically active

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology reports that there is less depression among kids who are physically active. Although past studies have demonstrated that adults and young people have less of a risk of developing depression when they are active physically, until now this association has not been adequately studied in children.

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It has been shown in this study that kids gain the same beneficial effects as adults from being active. In this study "active" has been defined as consisting of moderate to vigorous physical activity with kids sweating or becoming out of breath. There were about 800 kids examined when they were six years old with follow-up exams on about 700 of the kids when they were eight and ten years old.

Accelerometers, which are the same type of sensor which allows your smart phone to detect movement, were used to measure physical activity. The parents of the kids were interviewed in regard to the mental health of their kids.

There are more than just physical health benefits for kids when they are active

Tonje Zahl, a PhD candidate at NTNU, who is the first author of the article, says there are more than just physical health benefits for kids when they are active. Being active also protects kids from depression. Kids in the study who were physically active at six and eight years old had less symptoms of depression when they were examined two years later.

This study has been published in the journal Pediatrics. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity has been observed to be associated with less of the symptoms of major depression in middle childhood. Increasing physical activity in kids may offer a good alternative way to help prevent and treat depression in kids. It's a good idea to encourage kids to be active to help them maintain good physical and mental health.