Researchers in Canada have suggested that young boys should participate in sports as much as possible as it has a positive impact on their overall mental health during middle childhood years.
Findings of a study suggest that boys who participate in sports in early childhood are less likely to experience later depressive and anxiety symptoms – known as emotional distress – in middle childhood.
The study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics also suggests that boys who experience less emotional distress in middle childhood are also more likely to be more physically active in early adolescence.
For the research scienitsts examined the sporting and physical activity habits reported by the kids at ages 5 and 12 years, as well by their parents, and also looked at symptoms of emotional distress from ages 6 to 10 years that were reported by the kids’ teachers. Findings indicated that 5-year-old boys who never participated in sports were more likely between the ages of 6 and 10 to look unhappy and tired, had difficulty having fun, cried a lot, and appeared fearful or worried.
Parents of 690 boys and 748 girls they looked at had reported their past-year participation in sport at age 5 and their weekly level of physical activity at age 12; their teachers assessed emotional-distress symptoms observed in school from ages 6 to 10. The data were stratified by sex to identify any significant link between physical activity and emotional distress.
Boys who engage in sport in preschool might benefit from physical activities that help them develop life skills such as taking initiative, engaging in teamwork and practicing self-control, and build supportive relationships with their peers and adult coaches and instructors, the researchers said.
For girls, depression and anxiety risks and protective factors work differently, said researchers. Girls are more likely than boys to seek help from and disclose emotional distress to family, friends or health providers, and psychological support from these social ties protects them better.