Mental health, exercise and children – what’s the connection?

The new school year is fast on the approach, and children across the country will soon be gearing up for exams, studying and learning. Regardless of school year, age or whether it’s SATs, GCSEs or A-Levels that are soon to be on the horizon, it’s important that the necessary support and stress-relief is in place. Because according to the Children’s Society, 10% of children aged 5 – 16 already have recognisable mental health problems. While attitudes are changing and many people are striving to shine the spotlight on mental ill, it’s sadly still taboo in society.

As a personal trainer, I’ve always promoted exercise as one of the best ways of looking after your body. But the benefits of exercise go way beyond the physical elements; it’s one of the best ways of maintaining wellbeing and keeping your mental health in check – and it’s just as important for children too.

Growing up can be difficult, confusing, emotional, stressful – we’ve all been there. Some would say that now more than ever, the pressure on children today is relentless; and that’s why it’s so important that young people today have a release from the weight that they carry on their shoulders.

That’s why I’m a firm believer in using exercise as a way of promoting wellbeing in children – both physically and mentally. Once you stop treating the mind and body as two separate entities and realise that one can’t function properly without the other, it all falls into place.


Why is exercise good for mental health?

The bottom line is that your mind can’t function at its best if your body isn’t working properly. Yet when you’re feeling tired stressed or worried, it can be harder than normal to find the motivation to exercise, whether that’s as part of a sports team or on your own – and it can become a harmful cycle.

But if you can find a way to break the cycle, exercise can have profound effects on your mental health and wellbeing. Children who exercise regularly tend to feel more alert and energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night and generally feel more relaxed and positive about life.

Some studies actually show that exercise can treat mild/moderate depression as effectively as medication; exercise promotes neural growth in the brain, helps to reduce inflammation and can serve as a great distraction. The release of endorphins after a workout can help to boost your mood and to stay focused on the positives – and it’s also good way to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that can feed stress or anxious thoughts.

Our Fitter for Kids class runs once a week, and it’s a safe place where children aged 9 – 16 can train together, building up their confidence and helping them to become stronger both physically and mentally.

There’s no quick fix for mental health, but by encouraging regular exercise and healthy stress-relief techniques we can move one step closer, keeping young people healthy and happy.



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