A review of several potential benefits of exercise is presented in the online Huffington post article 13 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mental-health-benefits-exercise_n_2956099. The benefits included: Reduce Stress, Boost Happy Chemicals, Improve Self-confidence, Enjoy the Great outdoors, Prevent Cognitive Decline, Boost Brainpower, Sharpen Memory, Help Control Addiction, Increase Relaxation, Get More Done, Tap into Creativity, and Inspire Others.
Physical activity is an easy and effective strategy to reduce stress. In the past year many sports programs and after-school activities have been limited or cancelled. Any teen I work with will attest to my (frequently encouraged) “foundation of feeling good” message as: get 20 minutes of exercise a day, get adequate sleep, and eat (mostly) healthy food. This in no way is intended to minimize the experience of distress, anxiety, overwhelming stress, sadness or negative self-concept, but it is an important component to support emotional functioning and overall health.
Making it a priority to get out and get moving every day is even more important now, during a pandemic when so much time is spent siting inside (and on screens).
Getting 30 minutes a day of physical activity (3-5 days a week) may also significantly improve anxiety and depression symptoms. Read more in the article Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495.
Helping your child start exercising is particularly important when there is depression, as motivation to begin exercise or engage in physical activity may be low. A child or teen might be tired and express reluctance and “just not feel like it”. Starting regular physical activity before feeling motivated is important. Waiting for motivation to start exercising is not a realistic or helpful plan, particularly when someone feels generally tired or lethargic.
Exercise can actually increase energy and boost productivity.
Talk about and identify any obstacles to getting exercise and work with your child/teen to problem solve. Help determine when and what they can do each day. Plan in advance and find something enjoyable. If time constraints are an issue, break up walks to 10-15 minute intervals (you/your child will still get health benefits). Walk with your child before or after dinner. Walk the dog together in the morning. Do a yoga video together. Do family bike rides. Model exercise and being physically active. Help set routines that include daily physical activity. View and talk about physical activity not as a chore, but as a tool to help become or stay healthy. Make it a priority to move. For a free worksheet to plan and document on the Mental Health Benefits of Exercise see: https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/mental-health-exercise-benefits