20 May Beating Technology: How to get our children happier and healthier
We all know the rhetoric.
“Back in my day, kids were kids: they swung from trees, played contact sports. They bumped their heads and got straight back up. They were more resilient, both physically and mentally. But then technology caught up with us, and now all they do is play video games”
One in six young Australians are currently experiencing anxiety, and suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians. So why is it that kids are suffering similar mental health issues that were previously reserved for adults?
Here’s a bit of science for you, most people have heard of endorphins. The “feel good” hormone that gets released during and after exercise – it helps us cope with the stress of exercise, and helps us to want to exercise in the future.
Exercise also has an effect on two very important chemicals in the brain that transmit information – serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin affects mood, appetite, sleep, memory and temperature regulation. Dopamine affects movement, emotional response and your ability to feel pleasure. Both chemicals are linked to depression and anxiety.
“So what?” I hear you say…”my kids just need to stop playing video games and get out of the house”.
Well, those same chemicals are released when kids play video games.
Kids learn to “feel good”, or are internally rewarded for playing games in a similar way we are rewarded for exercising. So just taking the controller, or unplugging the power source is not the answer – it would be similar to telling a runner not to run, a crossfitter not to crossfit, or a yogi not to yoga. It’s not addressing the underlying physiology.
So how do we break the cycle and get our children exercising more?
The answer lies in the application. Young people need to move.
The environment needs to be supervised, fun, and enjoyable. Goals are important, but interaction with other kids is paramount. Especially other kids that are going through similar issues.
The exercise should be safe, but they should be working hard. Think strength training combined with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The stimulus that they were previously receiving from playing video games needs to be replaced with an exercise induced response.
That is why structure and supervision of the exercise program is paramount.
Accredited Exercise Physiologists possess the understanding and reasoning to be able to structure such exercise, are aware of the precautions that need to be taken to get maximal benefit, and will correspond with other practitioners to ensure that the young person is receiving the best possible care.