As the nation begins to prepare for yet another COVID surge in the fall, one of the most troubling lingering consequences of the past two years is the negative impact on teen mental health.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of Gen Z (46%) confirmed their mental health worsened during the pandemic.
Indeed, the isolation increased screen time, and sedentary lifestyle harmed many Americans – but none more than teenagers.
However, studies show that physical activity can reduce anxiety and stress and improve mood. In fact, 9 out of 10 teens agree that regular physical activity improves their overall mental health.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), only 15% of middle and high school-aged children met the recommended hour of physical activity a day over the past two years. An acute adolescent mental health crisis is now challenging parents, school administrators, and health care professionals across the county.
Teens who take advantage of opportunities to exercise notice the difference.
A recent survey by Planet Fitness showed that 88% of teen participants in its High School Summer Pass program felt that their overall mood improves after exercise and that the free access to gym facilities helped reduce their dependency on phones.
Young people found that working out benefited their physical health and self-esteem. Eight in 10 participants reported a boost in confidence and happiness.
Texas teen Isabella L. said, “This is also a perfect way to get many bored teens out of the house while boosting our health and confidence. Personally, being able to go to the gym has given me something to look forward to throughout the week and mood boosts.”
Parents see the benefits, too, with one reporting a son “genuinely looks forward to our visits to the gym. This has fueled his interest in healthy living and better eating habits. He has even used his online time researching workouts and diets instead of playing online games.”
Dr. Richard H. Carmona was the 17th Surgeon General of the United States. He advises Planet Fitness on physical and mental health issues.