The Big Picture

The Little Gym Blog

Recent studies have shown that exercise can directly affect several things related to good physical and
mental health, even to the point of improving brain function.

Research has shown that exercise also produces significant psychological benefits, including help in
fighting depression and anxiety. Although experts don't know exactly how regular physical activity helps
ease depression, it appears that exercise helps release certain chemicals (like neurotransmitters,
endorphins, and endocannabinoids) that seem to lessen depression. Exercise also helps reduce certain
immune system chemicals that have been shown to worsen depression.

Being physically active means moving enough to breathe heavily, be short of breath, feel warm, and
sweat. Exercise is vital to the health and well-being of children too. Physical activity helps build and
maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, for example. It helps maintain a healthy body mass index
and reduces the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease later in life. And it is proven that
exercise helps children fall asleep quickly and sleep well too.

Beyond benefits to the body, physical activity also boosts a child’s mental and behavioral health. It
increases a child’s enthusiasm and optimism and boosts self-esteem, school performance, attention, and
behavior. It also reduces anxiety and tension. It can also foster teamwork and friendship when it
becomes part of an organized sport.

Here are some ways to get your child started on physical activity:

  • Emphasize fun. Help your child find a sport that they enjoy. The more they enjoy the activity,
    the more likely they are to continue it. Get the entire family involved too. It is a great way to
    spend time together.
  • Choose an activity that is developmentally appropriate. For example, a 7- or 8-year-old child is
    not ready for weightlifting or a 3-mile run, but soccer, bicycle riding, and swimming are all great
    activities for kids this age.
  • Plan. Make sure your child has a convenient time and place to exercise.
  • Provide a safe environment. Make sure your child’s equipment and where they practice, or play
    is safe. Make sure your child’s clothing is comfortable and appropriate for the activity.
  • Provide active toys. Young children especially need easy access to balls, jump ropes, and other
    active toys.
  • Play with your children. Help them learn a new sport or another physical activity. Or just have
    fun together by going for a walk, hike, or bike ride.