Kids Who Are More Active Are Less Stressed

Kids who are more active tend to be less stressed.

Physically active children tend to be happier and have and have fewer symptoms of depression than children who are less active. Now researchers may have an explanation–exercise appears to help children cope with stress.

The New York Times is reporting on a new study done in Finland, in which researchers had 8-year-old kids wear an instrument called an “accelerometer” on their wrists.  The device measures the quality and quantity of a person’s physical activity.

The children’s parents took samples of their kids’ saliva at various times during the day, and that was used to measure the amount of the cortisol in their bodies.  Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone,” and high levels indicated physical or mental stress.

When the kids were at home, there was no difference in the cortisol levels of those who were active and those who were less active.

But when the researchers gave the children standard math and reading tests at a clinic, they found that the non-active children had higher levels of cortisol.   The kids who had engaged in moderate or vigorous physical activity showed almost no rise in cortisol levels.

Disa Hatfield, a professor at the University of Rhode Island says “This study shows that children who are more active throughout their day have a better hormonal response to an acute stressful situation,”

Dr. Hatfield notes that the study didn’t control for sugar intake, which has been linked with higher levels of cortisol.  Also, the researchers noted that the accelerometers worn by the kids could not accurately measure certain activities like bicycling or swimming.

But given all the other research on the benefits of physical activity, it’s clear that we should be getting our kids off the couch and out to the park, pool, or just the backyard.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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