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Physical Activity Can Protect Children From Depression, Says New Study

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A recent study shows that children who are physically active have a lower risk of developing depression.

Previous studies have suggested that physical activity in adults and young adults decreases the chances of affliction from depression. However, a new research suggests that the same is true for children as well.

Research performed in the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) suggests that children who receive a daily dose of moderate to heavy physical activity have better mental health.

For the purpose of the study, the scientists observed hundreds of children over 4 years old and studied their activity patterns.

The research began when the children were 6 years old. The mental health of these children was checked when they turned 8 years old and again tested when they turned 10 years old.

During this period of four years of testing, each of the children were required to wear an accelerometer which measured their physical activity each day. Using such methods, the researchers were able to get precise data from all the children involved.

The research was performed for the "Tidlig Trygg i Trondheim,' which is essentially a study related to development of children and mental health.

The Results Of The Study

The results revealed that children with more physical activity at 6 years old and 8 years old showed less signs of depression when they were examined after two years.

Psychologists believe that this result is vital in the fight against depression as it proves that physical activity can be used to counter depression even in children. Another view point has also been tested by researchers where children with very little or no physical activity were studied to see if they developed depression. However, such a conclusion has not been reached by the latest study.

The studies performed by the researchers also did not find any conclusive evidence which would suggest that inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle could enhance the risk of depression. Long hours of playing video games or watching television could not be linked to the rise in chances of developing depression.

Advice To Parents

As of now, scientists have not been able to pin point a sure-fire method of avoiding depression. There are a variety of studies with varying results. In such a context, it becomes a difficult task for a parent to know what to encourage in children and what not to.

However, there is some advice that all researchers would agree to convey to parents and that would be to make sure that children do not lead a sedentary lifestyle.

A parent should always encourage children to go to the park or to ride a bike rather than sitting at home watching television. Children should be motivated to play outside with friends as much as possible.

It is always better to limit the use of televisions, computers, and mobile devices as far as children are concerned. These steps may not guarantee a healthy mind but it does seem to decrease the risks.

The findings of the study were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Photo: Gary Graves | Flickr

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