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  • Writer's pictureHEAL Foundation

The Benefits of Exercise & Fitness for Children's Mental Health

Updated: Apr 4

Research shows a connection between exercise and better mental health in children.

Did you know that there is a direct relationship between fitness and children's mental health? Regular physical activity is crucial to a child's emotional well-being, including improved mood, reduced anxiety and stress, enhanced self-esteem, and better cognitive function.

We’re excited to explore this topic with you today! We’re also fascinated by the science behind these effects, including how exercise stimulates the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters that promote positive feelings and regulate stress.

What does that mean?! Exercise makes us happy and relaxed!

Children in exercising during physical education class

Sadly, there is an alarming rise in mental health issues among children and adolescents due to increased sedentary lifestyles and lack of regular exercise. We will empower parents, educators, and caregivers with practical tips on encouraging and incorporating physical activities into children's daily routines.

If a child engages in fitness activities, their mental health is positively impacted. Today, we want to empower adults to prioritize exercise in their children’s lives to help their holistic well-being.


The Connection Between Physical Activity and Children's Mental Health

The release of endorphins during exercise creates a sense of euphoria and well-being, alleviating feelings of sadness and worry. When children exert their bodies, they boost their self-esteem and body image. Regular exercise helps children develop a positive relationship with their bodies, promoting confidence and self-acceptance. When children engage in sports and play, they become more aware of their capabilities and strengths, fostering a sense of accomplishment and pride. When children engage in regular physical activity, they flourish in mind and body.

Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Boost Brain Power

  • Cope with Feelings

  • Improve Academic Performance

  • Increase Blood Flow to the Brain

  • Promotes Growth of New Neurons

  • Improves Memory and Concentration

  • Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Reduces Depression

The Role of Exercise in Improving Children's Sleep Patterns

Sleep is a basic need crucial for children's overall well-being, including their mental health. Exercise has been linked to improved sleep in children who participate in physical activity during the day so at night when the body needs rest it signals the production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep). Children who exercise regularly have a better sleep-wake cycle resulting in better sleep routines and getting a better night's rest.

Furthermore, engaging in physical activities improves overall sleep quality. Children who move their bodies regularly tend to experience deeper and more restorative sleep. They wake up feeling refreshed and energized, ready to face the day.

Social Benefits of Physical Fitness for Children

Physical fitness not only contributes to children's mental well-being but also helps children learn how to get along with one another. It teaches children team-building skills, communication, and how to work with others. It gives them the opportunity to learn empathy, respect, and sportsmanship towards their teammates and coaches. It gives children a place to foster friendships bonding over shared experiences and common goals. These social connections provide support and a sense of belonging. We were created for community, and when we have that, we are mentally stronger.

Furthermore, physical activities promote positive social skills and cooperation. Through team sports, children learn the value of teamwork, compromise, and how to problem-solve. They develop resilience and the ability to work together towards a common goal.

Social Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Communication

  • Social Skills

  • Motor Skills

  • Friendship

  • Teamwork

  • Problem-Solving

  • Discipline

  • Motivation

  • Goal-Oriented

Strategies for Encouraging Physical Activity in Children

How do we help our children be as active as possible?

1. Be a Role Model

Parents, babysitters, caregivers, etc. can create a supportive home environment and serve as role models by exercising in front of their children. By prioritizing exercise and making it a family affair, children are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards physical fitness.

2. Join a Sports Team

Encouraging participation in organized sports inside and/or outside school functions is another effective way to promote physical activity. Joining a sports team allows children to develop skills, make friends, and experience the joys of competition. Research local sports clubs and organizations to find suitable activities that align with their child's interests and abilities.

3. Create a Routine

Incorporating physical activity into daily routines is also vital. We can encourage children to walk or bike to school, play during recess, and limit screen time. Simple activities like family walks, bike rides, or dance parties at home can also be enjoyable ways to incorporate exercise into everyday life.

The most important factor is consistency. Find a routine that works for your class or home, and try to stick to it.


Encouraging children to exercise consistently is a way to help them develop mental and physical strength. Regular physical activity has numerous benefits, including reduced anxiety and stress, enhanced self-esteem, better cognitive function, overall quality of sleep, and social skills.

Parents, educators, and caregivers must prioritize physical activity and create an environment that encourages and supports children's engagement in exercise. By doing so, we can empower children to develop lifelong healthy habits and promote their holistic well-being.

Support our mission to improve the health and well-being of children around the world by making quality physical activity opportunities for local schools more accessible across the country.


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