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Fitness for your mind - not just your body

CHICAGO - JULY 8: Children follow teen nutrition ambassadors in exercise activities.
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Fitness and health of body have always been linked. Being physically fit makes your heart healthier, your lungs healthier, even your skin healthier.

But what about mental health? It is well-known that exercising releases endorphins - those feel-good hormones. Is there more to it than that?

The American Psychological Association (APA) says yes, especially for girls. In an article published on Science Daily, the APA surveyed 437 middle school students on physical fitness and symptoms of depression. Twenty-eight percent of the girls in sixth grade exhibited elevated signs of depression. Those experiencing symptoms of depression in sixth grade were most likely to report similar signs in seventh grade.

However, the sixth grade girls who performed better on a cardiorespiratory fitness test were less likely to exhibit the symptoms of depression in the seventh grade.

For this study, “...fitness was an important factor in curbing students’ depression a year later,” Science Daily said.

Camilo Ruggero, Phd, presented the findings of this study at the APA’s 122nd Annual Convention. He said, “Depression that begins at this time can lead to chronic or recurring depression in later years… Fitness programs are one way to help prevent depression in middle-schoolers, but schools should also use other interventions, such as one-on-one or group therapy, that more directly address symptom treatment among depressed adolescents.”

While more research needs to be done, the findings of this study indicate that striving for physical fitness at an early age can do more than ward of physical health issues later on in life - physical fitness can decrease the likelihood of depression among youth.