Exercise Reduces Suicidal Tendencies
If you’ve been following The Brain Flux for any amount of time, you know that exercise is a running theme. Why is this? Mostly because exercise is is a vital pillar of brain health.
The brain benefits of exercise reach far and wide. It’s still a pretty under-appreciated method of keeping and maintaining your mental health. Exercise isn’t a new topic. Yet, researchers are still finding out how it helps lives from a psychological standpoint.
Take school bullying for instance. A lot of recent literature is revealing how bullying can psychologically affect kids. And it’s still a big problem in schools across the nation.
A recent report published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports how exercise can help the mental health of students that have been the victims of bullying.
Bullying can have some pretty harmful affects. Students that have been bullied are at risk for declining academic performance, anxiety, depression, sadness, and substance abuse.
The new study is the first to show a link between physical activity and a decline in thoughts about suicide as well as suicide attempts.
That’s pretty big news. Even the lead author of the study – Jeremy Sibold – couldn’t have guessed at how positive the effect was. Here’s what he said about his research:
“I was surprised that it was that significant and that positive effects of exercise extended to kids actually trying to harm themselves.”
The trend for some schools across the nation is to cut physical education in favor of more time in class. When in fact this type of policy goes against what research is saying. Exercise can help kids learn and retain information in the classroom. Even help reduce incidents of maladaptive behavior.
Bullying has grabbed headlines in the media. Although recently, researchers have just started to uncover the long term effects of this type of behavior.
The study itself used data from the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This is data from over 13,500 high school students. From this data it was reported that close to 20 percent of students were being bullied on school grounds.
Here’s some other figures from the study. 22% of the students in the study reported suicidal thoughts and over 8% reported attempts of suicide. Students who were bullied were three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempts than those who weren’t.
Real World Impact
How impactful could this new research be for students who have been bullied? According to the study, there was a 23% reduction in suicidal tendencies for students who were physically active 4 or more days during the week. Exercise was also shown to significantly reduce sadness.
Suicide isn’t really a conversation friendly topic. But it is serious stuff. We are talking about kids that are thinking about taking their own lives. Jeremy believes the research is incredibly important as well:
“Even if one kid is protected because we got them involved in an after-school activity or in a physical education program it’s worth it.”
Looking for Change
Jeremy and his team hope this paper helps shed some light on the conversation. It’s an important contribution to public health concerns for both mental health and exercise in schools.
Only time will tell if policy makers will begin to listen to the research. Want to increase learning and all around development of teenagers and children? Then don’t cut exercise from the curriculum. Include it.