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Teen Depression on the Rise

Today, the CBC reported that teen depression is increasing at alarming rates causing experts to point to solutions, including earlier diagnosis and treatment. Surveys done comparing teen depression rates over time have demonstrated a significant increase. More stress, less certainty and lack of resources are all pointed to be the cause.

But what if the increase in depression can be attributed to one factor well under the control of parents and schools and less due to lack of medication or treatment?

Just over a year ago we conducted an informal survey among university students and found that some 60% engaged in absolutely no exercise/cardiovascular activity. This is significant. We know that exercise, particularly brief strenuous cardiovascular types, over time reduce depression, improves mood and recent research points to an increase in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is much smaller for those with severe depression.

Schools can make a difference by providing exercise to all students at least 4 times a week. In both elementary and secondary school, an increase in exercise will result in improved mood and better focus for children with certain types of ADHD.

Providing quiet stationary bikes at the back of all classrooms would be an ideal solution to assist with this endeavour. Parents, by providing exercise equipment in the home or access to community-based exercise, you can ensure that your child and teen use this tool.

As discussed in my book, your own exercise patterns will have a significant impact on your child’s willingness to engage in cardiovascular activity. You need to lead by example by exercising regularly as well.

Depression is a very painful condition that often means that children and teenagers suffer in silence. Open up the dialogue with your child today, perhaps while you both go for that daily run or brisk walk. Do it today.

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