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Fit body, fit mind: Here is how fitness can promote good mental health in your teen

Dhivya Joseph Dhivya Joseph 6 Mins Read

Dhivya Joseph Dhivya Joseph

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Fitness plays a vital role in teen mental health. Incorporating physical activities into your teen's life can drastically improve their state of mind and nurture their mental health. Read on to find out how

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Fit body, fit mind: Here is how fitness can promote good mental health in your teen

Mental well-being has become a growing concern for people of all ages, especially teenagers. A large percentage of teenagers today suffer from extreme stress, anxiety and even depression. A survey conducted by the NHS in 2021 found that one in every six children in the age group of 5-16 were at risk for a probable mental health problem.

Countless factors play a role in contributing to poor mental health among teens. A primary root cause is the school environment and academic stress. Some of the major factors here include:

  • Poor grades
  • Overload of homework
  • Pressure to fit in
  • Peer competition/pressure

Apart from school-based pressure, teens also suffer from poor mental health due to their growing dependence on technology. Besides the numerous positives it provides for teenagers, spending too much time on gadgets can have a negative impact on their well-being.

A few of the negative consequences include:

  • Poor social skills
  • Lack of quality sleep
  • Pressure of expectations set by social media
  • Psychological disorders

Individuals suffering from poor mental health could experience signs such as tiredness, mood swings, inability to concentrate, excessive worrisome thoughts and feeling constantly down. However, there are several steps we can take as parents to ensure good mental health for our teenagers. Foremost among them is fitness. Let us look at why fitness is important.

Why fitness is important

Fitness is the condition of being physically active, healthy and strong. This involves exercise, workouts, a healthy diet, etc. While the benefits of fitness for our physical health are well known, one may wonder how it contributes to a better mental state.

What we often do not realize is that physical activity is not only beneficial for our physical well-being but also for our mental health and state of mind. Physical activities have the potential to improve overall mental alertness and energy, as well as promote a positive mood. It has been proven to reduce signs of anxiety and stress while improving self-esteem.

Ways fitness can benefit mental health

1. Alleviates stress/anxiety

Physical activities play a significant role in the reduction of stress. Chemicals in your brain such as serotonin, endorphins, as well as stress hormones are constantly changing. Physical activities produce endorphins, chemicals produced to combat pain or stress while releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Moreover, it reduces general skeletal muscle tension, making the individual feel relaxed on a physical level as well. As a result of the released stress hormones and brain chemicals, physical activities can foster a positive mood and make us feel happier.

2. Contributes to a positive state of mind

As mentioned above, there is no doubt that fitness contributes to an improved state of mind, alertness and a simple change in mood. Generally, involvement in physical activities can instantly act as a distraction by taking one’s attention away from any negative thoughts. Some even believe that physical activity serves as an outlet for our frustrations. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, researchers found that physically active individuals felt more awake, alert, and content than those who were inactive.

3. Promotes self-esteem

Research indicates that those who are active and fit are less likely to experience mental illnesses. By improving emotional well-being, physical activities also can treat mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Lack of self-esteem is a root cause of anxiety and other mental health conditions. Involvement in physical activities has the potential to improve one’s self-esteem. Increased cognitive functions, concentration, and a positive state of mind allow one to efficiently achieve tasks, thereby providing a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

What are other ways to improve teen mental well-being?

Besides making efforts to involve teenagers in physical activities, other methods may also combat poor mental well-being.

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness plays an essential role in allowing individuals to be present, alert and self-aware. It may seem challenging to begin practicing mindfulness regularly. However, starting with small breathing exercises and guided meditations can drastically change mood and improve mindfulness. Mindfulness practices such as controlled breathing and awareness should be a part of our daily life as they can help us maintain a healthy state of mind on a long-term basis.

2. Spend time away from devices

Time spent on devices and social media is currently one of the major factors contributing to poor mental health. Constant access and exposure to social media and technology can be extremely draining as it lowers mood, promotes inactivity, and sets high levels of expectations for teenagers. The impact of social media on teenagers is immense and it promotes increased levels of stress and pressure. Therefore, time away from devices and social media is essential for teenagers to allow them to be present in the moment and involve themselves in physical activities.

3. Get into the habit of journaling

Lastly, getting your teenagers into journaling and expressing gratitude also contributes to a more positive state of mind and outlook on your surroundings. Practicing journaling daily provides children a space to express their emotions and reflect on their surroundings. Writing down things you’re grateful for will promote a positive mindset and allow children to appreciate the positive aspects of their life. Thus, there are numerous methods, along with physical activities, that will contribute to better mental well-being.

Time to bring about change

The significance of fitness, in relation to a healthy state of mind, should most definitely be emphasized. Every parent hopes that their child maintains a healthy state of mind. Helping their teens stick to a fitness routine regularly is one way to ensure that. Encouraging your teen to go for a short run or simply incorporating quick workouts into their daily routine will do wonders for their mental health. Designating time and sticking to a fitness routine is important for people of all ages, especially growing adolescents. With growing concern regarding poor mental health, the importance of fitness and its ability to combat mental conditions should be highlighted.

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