Healthy bodies, healthy attitudes important for kids

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

It’s no secret that exercise makes you feel better, and prevention is always better than a cure.

Two unrelated studies — one actually a compilation of 23 existing studies — offer helpful advice for adults as well as the future generation.

The University of Michigan review of other studies found that as little as 10 minutes of physical activity per week not only helped decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety but actually provided a significant boost to a person mood.

Overweight people benefited most from the exercise, the study found, but there is a limit to just how much “happiness” exercise can provide before it becomes a chore.

Those who did between 150 and 300 minutes of exercise a week boosted their happiness as much as those who were even more active.

It doesn’t seem to matter which kind of exercise you choose, but a wide range including aerobics, mixed activity classes, stretching and balance exercises seemed to help.

The review confirms what experts already knew about the exercise and mood:

Exercise releases dopamine, a happy chemical, into your brain, a chemical which seems to decline as we age. By subjecting yourself to a low-level form of stress by raising your heart rate and triggering a burst of hormonal changes, you’ll be better able to deal with higher levels of stress at other times.

Even if you feel too exhausted to exercise, you’ll find yourself more energized after a workout than you did before it.

Exercise boosts your confidence as you get in better shape, even if it’s only a slight improvement. It also can ease anxiety in a way similar to the results of meditation and talk therapy, and it fights insomnia.

Experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center believe in exercise so much that they’ve obtained a $2.8 million, five-year National Cancer Institute grant to show how rural communities can provide physical activities for youth.

In a partnership with Iowa State University and Kansas State University, UNMC researchers will use health departments across the state to study exercise’s ability to decrease childhood obesity and help prevent cancer.

“Since the 1970s, the obesity rate has quadrupled among youth in the U.S., said David Dzewaltowski, Ph.D., principal investigator for the study.

“Our social systems have changed to allow less activity. Increased physical activity has been linked to the prevention of many cancers,” he said. “Communities that offer more all-inclusive youth physical activities are key to cancer prevention and population health.”

Dr. Dzawaltowski would like to see a diversity of activities that include less structured activities and more opportunities such as pick-up games and free play.

“Kids are sometimes better off just playing,” he said. “We want to flip the idea that child development is about building one-on-one interactions, and instead think about it as building a community wellness landscape where a child can access health-promoting, socially diverse interactions through the day.

He will use video observation as well as accelerometers (similar to pedometers) to measure physical activity to help small communities improve activity opportunities.

Local health departments aren’t involved as yet, but results of the UNMC study should be helpful as McCook determines which community projects, such as a pool, playgrounds and sports fields, will benefit our children and grandchildren the most.

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