Coordination, balance, flexibility, self-esteem, socialization… Practicing a sport from childhood has a host of advantages. And a new study tells us that physical activity could also promote better mental health in the (very) long term when practiced from an early age.
Recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) are clear: children of all ages need to be active to reap the many benefits of regular physical activity, including improved cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular abilities, bone health, cognitive results, or blood pressure, to name but a few examples. But it is also about fighting against “(of) lifestyles (…) increasingly sedentary, due to the use of motorized transport and the increased use of screens in the context of work, education and leisure”. A harmful phenomenon for the sleep of children and adolescents, which can also promote weight gain and “poor cardiometabolic health, fitness, and social behavior or behavioral attitude“.
Good in body, good in mind
So many reasons that push national and international health authorities to regularly educate parents about the practice of a sport in toddlers. And which prompted researchers from the University of Queensland to look more specifically at the impact of physical activity on the mental health of the youngest. Data from more than 4,200 Australian children were analyzed for the purposes of this work, over an eight-year period. At the end of their research, the authors concluded that children who practiced a sport regularly from an early age had better mental health, and this in the long term. “Regular exercise in childhood is associated with better mental well-being in adolescents“said Dr. Asad Khan, lead author of the study, in a statement.
Focus on certain sports
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study goes even further since it highlights the many advantages of team sports, beneficial for self-confidence, socialization, and more generally quality of life. “We found that there was a positive impact on mental health regardless of the type of sport, but children who played as a team benefited the most“, explains Dr. Khan. And to add: “This could be explained by the social aspects of the sport, such as being surrounded by peers who support each other, being able to form friendships and working towards a common goal.“.
If the practice of a physical activity, and even more of a collective sport, proves to be beneficial for all children, the researchers specify that it would be all the more appropriate for those who “internalize their emotions” and / Or “have difficulty socializing with their peersThey also observed more benefits for boys than for girls, due to the lower participation of the latter in team sports.
Promote the integration of girls in team sports
“Lack of confidence in oneself and in one’s sporting abilities, or the stereotype that team sports are a male-dominated activity are all reasons that could explain the low level of participation of girls in team sports. It could also be due to a lack of opportunities for girls to participate in team sports, or a lack of diversity of sports offered in schools and after-school programs.“, say the authors of the study.
Faced with this observation, the researchers encourage the implementation of initiatives and strategies intended to promote the practice of a sports activity from an early age, as well as the integration of girls in team sports.
Encourage parents to get kids moving
Last year, Public Health France launched a campaign to get teenagers moving. A good initiative for their immediate and future health!
Parents can go to the manger-bouger.fr website, to find various recommendations for physical activity, but also advice and solutions to get their child to move more as well as a test to assess in a precise and objective way. the level of physical activity of their adolescents.