Get Moving: The Benefits of Exercise for Teen Mental Health

Exercise for Teen Mental Health

One of the best things that parents can do for their kids is help them build an exercise habit. That might mean dance, yoga, hiking, or high school athletics. It should be something they really enjoy, so they're inspired to keep doing it.

Why is exercise so essential for teens? Because physical activity has significant benefits for teen mental health, according to a large body of research. In fact, exercise can even be as effective as antidepressants. And, on the flip side, physical inactivity is associated with the development of psychological disorders.

Studies show that exercise has the following benefits for teen mental health:

  • Positively impacts levels of serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate mental health.
  • Releases endorphins, the body's natural "happy chemicals."
  • Lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which improves mood.
  • Increases self-esteem and body positivity.
  • Helps teens sleep better.

Evidence shows that teen athletics are particularly supportive, on a number of levels, and the effects are long-lasting. In one study, researchers found that people who got regular, vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.