Smart food choices and regular exercise boosts teens’ physical and mental health
July 12, 2017 0 Comments
Teens deal with a wide variety of issues during adolescence, including physical and emotional changes, peer pressure, high expectations from parents and the search for a unique identity. In many cases, such issues can increase stress levels. For adolescents suffering from body image and weight-related issues, the stress may lead to the development of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide ideation. Conversely, some medicines prescribed for mental health issues may lead to eating behavior disorders.
Past research shows that the association between obesity and bullying among children and adolescents is a major concern globally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents is 17 percent, affecting nearly 12.7 million youngsters.
The current generation of youngsters is over-indulging in unhealthy food and spending very little time doing physical activities. They have a higher likelihood of suffering from anxiety and depression than youngsters who are inclined to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly. Children who eat healthy, balanced diets have a lower likelihood of developing mental health problems than those who have unhealthy eating patterns.
Parents’ role in encouraging teens to eat healthy food and exercise
For parents, making adolescents eat healthy food and motivating them to exercise are not easy tasks. Youngsters can be urged to adopt healthy food habits by creating enabling circumstances. If only healthy food is available at home, adolescents will have no choice but to eat it. Intake of fruits and vegetables during adolescence strengthens developing bones, controls changes in hormones and enhances immunity. Junk food, which is high in sugar and fat, induces weight gain and results in lethargy. Sleep, vigor and mood, all of which impact emotional well-being, are also adversely affected by improper diet.
Teens may feel constrained to exercise due to academic workload, part-time employment and spending time with friends. Some also mistakenly believe that only vigorous physical activity will be beneficial without realizing that tangible benefits can accrue from even regular, moderate exercise. Exercising boosts the production of dopamine, the feel-good chemical, which can improve the mood of even the most anguished teens. The benefits of outdoor physical activities are even higher since sunlight, which is a source of vitamin D, acts as a natural antidepressant.
Teens must be made aware of the immense benefits of physical activity. Exercise not only builds muscle but also alleviates stress. It is a natural mechanism to ease tensions. Those who exercise regularly are able to sleep better. The combination of low-stress levels and better sleep can improve the mood of even the most temperamental adolescent.
Psychological interventions for teens should consider diet and exercise
Nearly 20 percent of youngsters aged between 13 and 18 suffer from a mental health problem whose severity impacts the smooth functioning of their daily lives, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The beginning of nearly 50 percent of all mental illness cases takes place by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24. It is important to pay attention to adolescents during this developmental phase. Since the majority of common mental health disorders trace their inception to adolescence, psychological interventions for teens must consider a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen as crucial elements of the treatment program.
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