The scary reality about teen mental health (and how you can change it)

Adolescents are facing more and more challenges that most adults didn’t experience at their age. Throughout the challenging and sometimes down-right scary experience of COVID-19 this past year, many teens had no choice but to trade in their favorite activities and sports for excessive screentime, sedentary lifestyles, and, unfortunately, increased mental health issues.

An alarming 46% of parents say their teen has shown new or worsening mental health conditions since the start of the pandemic, according to a poll by the University of Michigan. This has effectively created a second, silent pandemic. This number is alarming, and while we may not be able to reverse these effects or change history, we can take steps to move forward and ensure our adolescents are given the tools they need to heal and develop or pick back up the healthy habits they had pre-pandemic.

Mental health issues affect nearly 800,000 teens in Canada. Even before the threat of COVID-19, an alarming rate of children and teens were facing anxiety, depression, and other severe mental health issues. As a parent, it’s important to recognize the signs and take steps to prevent or intervene to ensure your teens are happy, healthy, and supported. A large and newly discovered preventative action that has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health is physical activity. Let’s take a look at the signs of mental illness in adolescents, how exercise can help, and how you can make sure your teens are given the tools they need to live their happiest and healthiest lives.

Although there are many factors that can contribute to mental illness like genetics, trauma, and more, there are many illnesses that are preventable or at least easily managed if caught early enough. So, t’s important to look out for the right signs, so you can intervene and help them avoid the struggles of anxiety, depression, and more. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, mental health conditions can begin to develop at a young age, so it’s essential to recognize the signs and take action as soon as possible. A few signs to look out for include:

Excessive worrying
Increased feelings of sadness
Extreme mood changes
Avoiding friends and family
Changes in eating habits
Changes in sleeping habits
Intense concern with appearance
And much more.

To read an extensive list of these signs, check them out here. If you notice your child or teen experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to schedule a visit with your family doctor or find a therapist that they feel comfortable speaking with.

Research shows that physical activity is proven to have a positive impact on the mental and physical health of humans of all ages. Consequently, a lack of exercise and movement can result in a decrease in physical and psychological health. According to a 2019 study on activity and mental health, adolescents who exercise 0 days a week are twice as likely to develop anxiety and depression.

Less stress is another benefit your teen can gain from exercising, because exercise increases serotonin and releases endorphins, therefore empowering them to feel like the best version of themselves. This medical article titled Exercise for Mental Health, explains that “Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress.” In simple terms, the more you exercise, the better you feel.

Encouraging your teen to get outside and find an activity that they enjoy is essential for not only their physical health but their happiness and overall wellbeing. Professionals recommend getting at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, which will make a substantial difference in your teens’ day-to-day lives. Now that things are starting to go back to “normal” and the threat of COVID-19 is diminished, try encouraging your teen to join a sports team, get together with friends for a bike ride, or even try out a few new TikTok dances together. Making exercise fun takes the pressure off, and can help create lasting memories for the both of you for years to come.

Do you want to help your teen get active and reach their daily activity and fitness goals? The FitTrack Beebo or FitTrack Dara smart scale is a great way to track your family members’ goals and progress. With up to 8 user profiles available, and 17 health measurements, you and your teen can track muscle mass, hydration levels, and much more in a healthy and productive way.