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Exercise Needed for Children’s Mental Health

The pandemic seriously disrupted fitness activities.

children's mental health decline shown with child looking at a phone sadly

During the pandemic, many opportunities for kids to be physically active were disrupted—youth sports, school P.E., community recreation programs and playing with friends. Children turned instead to recreational screen-based activities. Many youth also engaged in remote or hybrid schooling that required more screen time—a trend that may be impacting children’s mental health.

University of Washington researchers in Seattle studied whether children’s physical activity and screen time was linked with their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a national survey with 1,000 school-aged children, researchers found that kids who were more physically active and who had less screen time had better mental health.

Study authors recommend that health professionals address the mental health needs of children who were adversely impacted by the pandemic. A good place to start is to increase opportunities to more physical activity programs while ensuring equal access for all children, including sports and outdoor recreation.

The study is reported in JAMA Network Open (2021; 4 [10], e2127892).

See also: Exercise and Mental Health During the Pandemic

Question of the Month

Kids exercising to improve children's mental health

Given the need for kids’ fitness services during the pandemic, has your facility or have you increased programs for children or emphasized the availability of kids’ activity programming? What, if anything, are you offering to meet the increased need for youth fitness programs? What methods are you using to reach parents and/or teachers to promote these offerings? Tell us about your experiences and what methods you’re finding to be most successful.

We want to hear from you! Email executive editor Joy Keller, [email protected].


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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