Early childhood train improves boys’ psychological well being: Montreal researchers

Breadcrumb Trail Links

“It’s necessary to have a child get used to moving early. Don’t necessarily say no to screen time, but vary activities,” the researchers say.

Author of the article:

La Presse Canadienne

Jean-Benoit Legault

Publishing date:

Sep 27, 2021  •  September 27, 2021  •  2 minute read  •  Join the conversation Rebecca Genest watches her children James, 9, top, Noah, 5, and Owen, 8, right, play at a playground near their home in Buckingham, Que. Rebecca Genest watches her children James, 9, top, Noah, 5, and Owen, 8, right, play at a playground near their home in Buckingham, Que. Photo by Justin Tang /Montreal Gazette

Article content

Boys who are physically active in their early childhoods exhibit better mental health a few years later and are more likely to remain physically active by the start of their adolescence, a new study by two Montreal researchers concludes.

Advertisement 2

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Those boys are notably less likely to exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety while growing up, the researchers say.

“What we found is that boys who engaged in physical activities in early childhood, at five years old, had better mental health when compared with those who did not engage in physical activities,” said Marie-Josée Harbec, who conducted the study as part of her doctoral thesis overseen by Linda Pagani, professor of psycho-education at Université de Montréal.

Physical activity while they are preschoolers can help boys acquire daily life skills such as taking initiative, teamwork and self-control, the researchers believe.

It can also help them establish helpful and significant relations with peers and the adults who coach and teach them.

Advertisement 3

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The researchers examined sports and physical activity habits reported by 5-to-12-year-old children and their parents. They also examined the symptoms of emotional distress reported by teachers of students ages 6-10. The cohort studied was composed of a little over 1,400 children.

“We did not find any significant results in our analyses among girls,” Harbec said. “Which isn’t to say there are no benefits from physical activity on the mental health of girls, but does say there is perhaps something else that explains why girls who are more active do not necessarily exhibit fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

Boys active at an early age find themselves drawn into a kind of “vicious circle” that leads them to remain active at the start of adolescence, she said.

Advertisement 4

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The message for parents is to promote physical activity for their child. But that does have to mean playing hockey five times a week — a mountain hike or a bicycle trip will do just as well, the researchers said.

“Play outside and try as much as possible to keep the child away from (computer) screens,” Harbec said. “It’s necessary to have a child get used to moving early. Don’t necessarily say no to screen time, but vary activities, particularly physical activities. Humans are creatures of habit; the desire to move is learned.”

Parents should lead by example. A 5-year-old child rarely needs encouragement to go outside and play, but the chances of success are even better if parents participate as well, and everyone benefits.

The study was conducted is collaboration with researchers at McGill University and the Institut de recherche du Centre hospitalier pour enfants de l’est de l’Ontario.

Share this article in your social network

Advertisement 1

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Comments are closed.