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June 23, 2015

Some teens might always be on the move while others may be parked on a living room couch – but all teens need physical exercise. The effects of exercise and physical activities on both teen’s bodies and mental wellness have been proven time again through a variety of scientific studies. However, as youth age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that they participate less and less in physical activity. With today’s overuse of technology in teens, many find little incentive to be active. Every adolescent should incorporate physical activity into his or her daily routines. But troubled youth and young adults need exercise that much more.

Immediate and Long-term Effects of Exercise

The best part about exercise is that it shows both immediate and long-term rewards to those who partake, including:

Immediate effects:

  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • More energy
  • Better sleep

Long-term effects:

  • Improved academic performance
  • Greater strength and endurance
  • Healthier bones and muscles
  • Controlled weight, improved cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Reduced levels of depression

Replacing the Bad with Good

To truly reap these benefits, adolescents must begin replacing unhealthy behaviors like substance abuse, overuse of technology or rebellious activity with exercise. This simple act will quickly begin to shift their way of thinking, as well as the way they feel about themselves. Even just 30 minutes to an hour of exercise a few times per week can show tremendous benefits. A study highlighted in Psychology Today by Dr. Andrea Dunn noted that patients who did the equivalent of 35 minutes of walking six days per week experienced a 47 percent reduction in their depression levels.

Gardening as Exercise

“The proven benefits of exercise in treating or preventing depression extend to even moderate physical activity, such as gardening,” states Dr. Dunn in the article. In fact, horticultural therapy is an ideal low-impact activity that also helps teens meet specific therapeutic treatment goals. The primary goal of horticultural therapy is to improve health and inspire motivation for change. Just like our bodies need fitness, our minds need these therapeutic experiences to regulate and improve our mental health. Less common activities for troubled youth, like gardening, may encourage your teen to be more active and healthy. 

Prioritizing Fitness

Activities can be structured into a set schedule at first, but eventually they should begin to naturally take over. Structured physical training programs have been proven to increase self-esteem, well-being, and the acquisition of life skills, like goal-setting and planning, while also lowering depression and anxiety, according to findings published in the National Association for Physical Education in Higher Education.

At Pacific Quest, students are increasingly given more freedom managing their schedules as they progress. Here, our activities include: stretching, yoga, cardiovascular exercises, resistance bands, calisthenics, working in the gardens and camps, hiking, walking, swimming and group recreational activities like dodge ball and kayaking. We believe in making fitness enjoyable and incorporating it in the program to further both our student’s individual and team goals. If you’d like to learn more about our program, please contact us here.

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