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You’ve already heard how important regular exercise is in helping your children grow strong and healthy. But what you may not know is that there’s now scientific proof that physical activity also helps make kids more relaxed, confidentm, and emotionally stable.
In the first study of its kind, researchers measured the connection between activity and surges in cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. The results, published in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, offer evidence that exercise plays a key role in helping children cope with stressful situations.
“The findings suggest physical activity plays a role in mental health by buffering children from the effects of daily stressors,” says the study’s lead author, Silja Martikainen.
The study monitored physical activity and cortisol levels in 8-year-old children, who wore devices on their wrists to measure their physical activity. To measure their reactions to stress, the children were assigned arithmetic and story-telling tasks, and saliva samples were taken to measure cortisol levels. The results showed the most active children’s cortisol levels were the least reactive to stressful situations.
“Clearly, there is a link between mental and physical well-being, but the nature of the connection is not well understood. These results suggest exercise promotes mental health by regulating the stress hormone response to stressors.”