Active children could find themselves happier in later life, say Australian researchers. Being physically active in childhood could protect one against depression later, it looks like.
The study, carried out at the Deakin University, was based on self-reported levels of physical activity and depression in 2152 women and men from south-eastern Australia.
Researchers found those reporting low physical activity levels as a child were 35 per cent more likely to report depression in adulthood compared to those reporting higher levels of physical activity in childhood.
This association was apparent even after taking adult physical activity levels into account.
Dr Felice Jacka, a researcher with Deakin's School of Medicine based at Barwon Health in Geelong, said being physically active as a child may be important to adult mental health.
"The results of our study suggest that physical activity may protect against the development of depression and supports the encouragement of regular physical activity in children," Dr Jacka said.
"Childhood is a period of rapid brain development and physical activity in early life may have beneficial effects on the developing brain through its impact on important brain proteins and oxidative stress.
"Involvement in sport is also known to influence the development of important coping and stress management skills in children and adolescents and has been shown to be associated with greater emotional wellbeing in adolescents.
"Conversely, low levels of physical activity are linked with lower levels of social support in young adults which may influence risk factors for depression over one's life."