exercise & mental health

"I so wish there was a pill for depression that you only had to take as needed" 

"There is" I said.  "It's called exercise"

Eye rolls, sighs, "I know", "yuck" are the common responses I get at the mention of incorporating exercise into a good wellness plan.  The problem is that many of the habits we develop during the teen years will stay with us over a lifetime.  Her brain is ripe for learning to see and feel the benefits of trying a variety of different fitness options.

Sitting is the new smoking says Dr. James Levine director of the Mayo Clinic Arizona State University in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.  Inactivity is causing significant health problems for adults and teens including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Too many teen girls are inactive and also struggling with their mental health.  There is a correlation between mood enhancement and exercise. Researchers are discovering that the immediate benefits are tsignificant.  In some cases after just 10 min. of activity moods improve. It makes sense that our becoming active would influence our minds because of our mind-body connection.  Dr. John Ratey a Harvard professor and psychiatrist explains more about brain function and exercise.

Over the years I have worked with many college students who are struggling with anxiety and depression and one of the things we noticed is that many of them were athletes in high school but not in college.  They did not realize how important the exercise had become to their mental health.  Once they get back into some form of regular exercise program, they begin to feel better.  This is important to teach her before she heads off to college if she is an athlete or active.

How you can help

-  Model good habits.  Show her how valuable it is in your own life.  If you don't value it she is less likely to care.

-  Let her try a variety of options.  Take a class, run a 5K, try tennis, yoga, walk, etc... Use your gym membership.  Look for alternative ideas in the community like mixed martial arts or Kung Fu.

-  Prioritize it together or as a family.  Help her create the time.  Exercise is like medicine for a lot of people and helps keep the body functioning well.

-  Start small.  The chances of giving up are high if the goal is not doable.  Remember the hope is to build a habit which takes time and consistency. Aim for 2x/wk and move up from there.  You can start with 15 min. and increase.

-  Limit Netflix binges.  6-12 hrs (yes, they sometimes watch for 12 hrs!) in front of the TV is not a good habit to start.  Help her take breaks and at least go for a walk.

Creating a habit of physical fitness is key to your daughters mental health and well-being.  If you are noticing that her moods are changing and she is not handling stress well, make sure to encourage and support her discovering what fitness program works for her.  Start the discussion and get her moving!!

I can remember as a young adult I was visiting my family and had been out of my routine.  My emotions were on edge and my dad finally looked at me and said "I think you need to go workout".  He knew that as a life-long athlete I needed to get rid of the pent up energy and emotion.  I came back a much nicer, calmer person.  I am so thankful that I have this tool to help me when I need it.