Family Fitness to Reduce StressLet’s face it. It can be stressful being a kid! School, homework, sports, lessons, clubs, peer pressure… they all add up. One way to help children cope and reduce stress in their lives is to build exercise into their day.

A recent study from the University of Helsinki, Finland, examined cortisol levels in children when faced with everyday stress including math problems and story-telling. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Researchers tracked physical activity levels of children through wrist monitors and took saliva samples to measure cortisol levels. Their findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) earlier this year.

The results? Children who were most physically active had the lowest rise in cortisol levels during times of stress. In contrast, sedentary children experienced the largest rise in cortisol levels. “On one hand, these results suggest that exercise might promote mental health by regulating the stress hormone response to psychosocial stressors,” said lead researcher Silja Martikainen, MA, in an interview with Prism Fitness Group. “On the other hand, sedentary lifestyle itself could be considered as a risk factor for higher susceptibility to psychosocial stress, caused by higher HPA axis reactivity.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says children and adolescents need an hour of exercise per day… primarily aerobic exercise. “Our findings support this recommendation,” said Martikainen. “Not only organized sports but also free-running activities that are fun and rewarding, such as physically active play, are important especially for prepubertal children.”

Help your child lead a healthy lifestyle in both body and mind. Make time for exercise this school year!

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