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Exercise in your teens can impact your mental health for years to come



As it turns out, our parents were right. Exercising in our teens is not only important for our physical health, but a new study has found that it can determine our mental health for years to come too.

To find these results, more than 26,000 people across 22 countries including the UK were asked about their exercise levels as teens and their mental health today.

It’s the second Global State of Mind Study run by ASICS, and it found that people in the UK who are regularly active have a score of 61/100, while those who are largely inactive score just 54/100.

Overall, Brits scored lower than other countries, as the global average from the survey was 65/100. In fact, Brits came 17th out of 22 countries, and the study found that just 55% of us exercise regularly.

Those who exercised as teens were found to have a higher state of mind score as adults, and were more likely to have established positive exercise habits as they aged.

 

The study pinpointed the ages of 15 to 17 as the most critical years for staying active, and people who stopped exercising during these ages could see their mental health impacted for years to come.

People who stopped exercising before 15 have the lowest activity levels now, with 30% still inactive as adults. This cohort is also likely to be 11% less focused, 10% less confident, 10% less calm, and 10% less composed than those who exercised throughout their teen years.

The study also uncovered a generation gap, as younger generations were found to be less active than their predecessors.

In fact, more than half (55%) of the Silent Generation, or those aged over 78, said they were active in their childhood, which dropped to just 35% for Millennials and 21% for Gen Z.

Gen Z also have a lower mental health score than older generations too, with 55/100 compared to Baby Boomers’ 68/100 and Silent Generation’s 69/100.

 

"It is worrying to see this decline in activity levels from younger respondents at such a critical age, particularly as the study uncovered an association with lower wellbeing in adulthood," Professor Brendon Stubbs, a leading researcher in exercise and mental health from King’s College London, says.

"Gen Zs across the world are already exhibiting the lowest State of Mind scores in comparison to the Silent Generation, so this could be hugely impactful for future mental wellbeing across the world."

Hayley Jarvis, Head of Physical Activity for Mind, agrees that the results are concerning.

"Especially as the mental health of young people is worsening, with one in five children and young people experiencing mental health problems," she adds.

"With 50% of common mental health problems experienced before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24, our teenage years play a crucial role in laying the foundations for later life. Movement can play an important role in helping us all to stay well, reducing the risk of depression between 20-30%."

However, all is not lost for people who have been largely inactive since their teens. One study from 2023 determined that exercise at any age can have mood-boosting properties, can lead to better sleep, and generally improve your quality of life.

 

Source: Laura Hampson, Yahoo News UK

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