The Psychology of Exercise in Children
Exercise has been found to positively impact cognition in children, even in those as young as four. One specific element of cognition which is improved due to exercise is executive functioning. The behavioural element is particularly interesting as physical activity has been found to significantly improve the way children behave in their social environment, allowing them to co-operate better, decrease aggressiveness, take more responsibility and reduce antisocial behaviour. From a mental health perspective, the benefits of exercise for children include improving self-esteem and self-perception and reducing depression, tension and anxiety. School has traditionally been a place where exercise was undertaken both in physical education lessons and during break times. Understanding both the barriers and facilitators can help to design effective exercise programmes and marketing tactics to help children develop a love (or certainly a like) of exercise. Distraction techniques which reduce the children’s perception of effort may tone down their feelings against exercise.