Around 26% of Canadian kids and teens are obese, which is why health departments, teachers, and doctors are stressing the importance of physical activity and a healthy diet. However, what many don’t tell you is that exercise can and should be about so much more.

Studies have shown that being active can boost your mental health as well. One study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, for instance, found that yoga classes had major psychological benefits for secondary school students, improving mood and reducing tension and anxiety.

Holistic exercises like yoga and Tai Chi are indeed ideal for battling stress, but any exercise you love and stick to can have many positive effects on your mental health and wellbeing!

Exercise in the Great Outdoors

You might be surprised to discover that 90% of your life is spent indoors. Doing so can increase your chances of gaining weight and feeling less-than-perfect, but it can also affect your happiness.

A 2019 study by scientists at Aarhus University found that kids who grow up in green surroundings have up to a 55% lower chance of having mental disorders when they grow up.

Indeed, many studies have shown that being in beautiful green surroundings can lower stress levels – and between school and family life, you may have quite a bit of stress to release!

Try walking or cycling, ensuring you stay safe regardless of the activity you choose. For cycling, an ergonomic, appropriately sized bike increases comfort and safety, as will the usual equipment (especially a good helmet). Clothing such as good shoes are also key for cycling and running.

Physical Activity vs Bullying

Bullying is a problem that many teens face at school or online. In Canada, around 75% of people say that they have been affected by bullying.

A study undertaken at the University of Vermont showed that exercise reduced suicide attempts by 23% among bullied teens. Despite these findings, many schools are reducing physical education, recess, and athletic programs – something you can battle on an individual level by embracing exercise in your free time.

Exercise vs Anxiety and Depression

Exercise can help you feel more confident about your body – which is a great thing at a time in which you are changing and growing at such a fast rate.

An article published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science found that teens who perceive their bodies as ‘too thin’ or ‘too fat’ are at a greater risk for problems like anxiety and depression. Teens who took part in organized sports, however, were at a lower risk for health problems.

It’s not just about body image; it’s also about social interaction. Taking part in a group class or going for a ride with a friend is a fantastic way to meet new people and strengthen bonds with friends and family members.

In a way, exercise bridges the divide between what you think and feel and the way your body reacts. When you are taking part in a sport like running, aerobics, or even yoga, you can easily get lost in ‘the Zone’: a wonderful area in which your body and mind can feel at one.

Far from being just a way to keep trim and fit, exercise has powerful effects on your mind. Some of the studies mentioned showed how exercise could help battle stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercise is also a fantastic way to experience ‘the present moment’ in a fun, active way.

When you are beating your running record, cycling to a new place, or enjoying the solitude and peace of swimming your 10th lap, it can feel like the world has stopped and all that matters is now.

Written by Jackie Edwards