It is widely suggested that regular exercise for adults may help boost moods and ward off stress. Now, the same is being suggested for children. More active children are reported to be happier and less depressed in general, and a new study out of Finland suggests this may be due to the ability to better cope with stress.

    In the study, researchers took data from 258 8-year-old boys and girls wearing accelerometers for at least four days whose parents also used cotton swabs to gather saliva samples during the day. The accelerometers obtained an estimate of daily physical activity and the saliva samples were used to measure levels of cortisol, which is commonly paired with physical or mental stress.

    While the researchers did not note any significant differences based on the cortisol levels measured at home, they found more context-specific results. The children were given a standard psychosocial stress test that featured arithmetic and storytelling and measured the cortisol levels. Among all children, those who engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity did not show any significant rise in cortisol levels. The least active children had the highest cortisol levels.

    To summarize, daily exercise may not significantly affect daily stress levels but it does lead to a better hormonal response to a more specific stressor or stressful situation. The implications of this for children are huge, especially when you consider important events like tests in school or even sports competitions or bigger stressful events like moving to a new town. Maintaining school fitness programs is therefore important for student well-being and the ties between regular physical activity and reactions to stress continue to be a popular subject for researchers. So even if it means starting soccer or picking up dance lessons, find a way to help your child get the exercise they need to help them navigate stress down the road.

Read the entire article here: Exercise May Help Protect Children From Stress

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