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Team Sports Are Not Just a Way to Get Your Child Outdoors, It May Also Help With Depression

Creating a balance in life is important. This same approach can be taken for school children, as a focus solely on academics, without considering after-school activities, could be a mistake, especially since team sports have been linked to a reduced risk of depression in boys.

Major depressive episodes among preteens and teenagers have been on the rise within the last decade, Healthline notes, and a high percentage of these individuals are not receiving treatment. That said, engaging in team sports could help some individuals, as research has linked this involvement to a larger hippocampal volume in boys and girls (in contrast, the publication points out a link between adults with depression and a shrinking hippocampus).

The most recent research on the effect that sports have on the mental health of children was conducted by a team of scientists at Washington University and published in the journal, Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Over 4,000 children, aged between nine and 11, were involved in the study, which the study’s lead author, Lisa Gorham, shed light on (via MSN Lifestyle).

"We found that involvement in sports, but not non-sport activities such as music or art, is related to greater hippocampal volume in both boys and girls, and is related to reduced depression in boys," she said. "We also found that these relationships were particularly strong for participating in team sports or sports that involved 'structure', such as a school team, a non-school league or regular lessons, as compared to more informal engagement in sports.”

The study is not necessarily about athletic skills in children, rather it focuses on the benefits that are involved in the structure of the team activity, “such as the social interaction or the regularity that these activities provide,” Gorham states.

Healthline also spoke to Dr. Cynthia LaBella, chairperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, who told them: “Team sports provide regular aerobic activity, which is known to have beneficial effects on memory, cognition, and mood.”

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