How Movement Impacts Mental Wellness

Have you ever noticed how certain activities can shift the way you feel? That’s because our moods, behaviors, thoughts and physicality (or physical abilities) are interconnected. So, when we make positive changes to one, we can see a domino effect in others. Research suggests that moving our bodies regularly (whether through physical activity or exercise) improves our mental and physical health.  

Dayton Children’s Hospital shares simple ways to move our bodies to create a healthy mindset and habits.

Studies show that movement benefits your body and mind by:  

  • Improving mood and ability to focus 
  • Increasing positive classroom behavior and academic achievement for children 
  • Creating a stronger sense of self 
  • Increasing the ability to manage and adapt to stress 
  • Improving heart and brain health

Dayton Children’s behavioral health and sports expert, Linh-Han Ikehara, says all forms of movement have nourishing benefits for our bodies and minds, regardless of the level or duration.  

“Often, when we think about exercising, we might think of it as a high sweat workout at the gym,” Linh-Han says. “The idea is to focus on building consistency of healthy behaviors through movement, and there are many ways we can do this daily. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.” 

Building a Positive Relationship with Movement 

Now that we know movement can improve our mental wellness, here’s how you can be constructive and make movement a nourishing part of your lifestyle.

The first thing you should do is make it fun! Find simple ways to move every day and involve the whole family.

“We’re more likely to engage in movement when it makes us happy and creates connection with others,” Linh-Han says.  

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Go for a walk or bike ride. Bring the family dog, if you have one! 
  • Have a hula hoop competition. 
  • Choose an animal and pretend to move like it. Try cheetah, elephant and rabbit to start.  
  • Train for a 5K with a meaningful cause.  
  • Engage in a daily strength challenge of doing more jumping jacks or pushups.  

Next, it’s important to let go of the idea that you have to be perfect! Remember that some movement is better than nothing at all. Shift the focus from checking exercises off of your to-do list to discovering how moving your body makes you feel. And, if your schedule becomes busy, be flexible and realize there are many options to get movement each day.  

By encouraging kids to move each day, we can empower them to remain physically and mentally fit. If you’re looking for some inspiration on activities you can do, check out the On Our Sleeves Mental Fitness Challenge. Don’t forget to visit for more free resources for children’s mental health.

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