There’s a disturbing statistic from a new study that 25 percent of students report being bullied in the last year. Being born in the 70’s and growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I remember those days. I was skinny, small, and had zero muscle when I started high school. Today’s society is different though. It seems as though everything is magnified, everything moves faster, and everything is so intense. My five year old son goes to kindergarten from 8:15 a.m to 4 p.m. In that time, he get 1.5 hours for play/exercise. The rest of the time is dedicated to transitions from class to class or study to study. That’s fucking intense and it scares the living shit out of me, honestly. There’s been quite a few studies related to exercise and mental health. All of us are keenly aware that exercise promotes positive mental health. This is even more so in kids. According to a study published online in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
“Physical activity is inversely related to sadness and suicidality in adolescents, highlighting the relationship between physical activity and mental health in children, and potentially implicating physical activity as a salient option in response to bullying in schools.”
An accompanying editorial, by Dr. Bradley D. Stein and Tamara Dubowitz of The Rand Corporation in Pittsburgh, states,
“…the evolving literature suggests that physical activity interventions appear to be potentially promising as preventative interventions for some children and adolescents at risk for developing mental health disorders and for augmenting more traditional interventions for children and adolescents being treated for depressive and anxiety disorders and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The side effects of such physical activity interventions are likely to be more positive for many children than those of many other therapeutic interventions and potentially less costly.”
In 1994, Henry Rollins published a well known essay in Details Magazine called “Iron and the Soul.” It’s absolutely fantastic and I believe everyone should read it. For many of us, this essay hits home. He expresses everything that many of us felt in grade school and high school. The feelings related to feeling stupid, humiliation, fear, and aggression. Back in the day, exercise wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. In today’s world, these feelings tend to be more intense for kids. Exercise should be at the forefront at home and at school, especially in today’s society. The University of Vermont put out a news release that states:
“Across the U.S., nearly 20% of students report being bullied on school property. Bullying is associated with academic struggle, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and self-harm. Exercise has been widely reported to have robust positive effects on mental health including reduction in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Using data from a nationally representative sample of youth who participated in the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (CDC), a group of researchers…examined the relationship between exercise frequency, sadness, and suicidal ideation and attempt in 13,583 U.S. adolescents in grades 9-12. The authors hypothesized that exercise frequency would be inversely related to sadness and suicidality and that these benefits would extend to bullying victims.
Overall, 30% of students studied reported sadness for 2 or more weeks in the previous year; 22.2% and 8.2% reported suicidal ideation and suicidal attempt in the same time period. Bullied students were twice as likely to report sadness, and three times as likely to report suicidal ideation or attempt when compared to peers who were not bullied. Exercise on 4 or more days per week was associated with significant reductions in sadness, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempt in all students. In particular, the data showed a startling 23% reduction in both suicidal ideation and suicidal attempt in bullied students who exercised 4 or more days per week.
Based on these findings, the authors concluded that exercise may represent a safe, economical, and potentially highly effective option in the response to bullying in schools.”
From personal experience, I can say that lifting weights significantly improved my mood and confidence in high school. Without having a no-nonsense military vet pushing me to become better, my mood would have deteriorated significantly. Each child should have a focus in exercise, whether it be gymnastics, weightlifting, or soccer. It’s imperative to their mental health and well being. Henry Rollins said it best when he said:
“Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.
The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.
The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.”