By Debra Rodzinak
Mind-body exercises such as tai chi, qigong, and yoga have become very popular among adults in the U.S. While numerous studies have been conducted on the positive benefits of qigong for adult cardiovascular fitness, stress, and musculoskeletal problems, there is not much information on the benefits to children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of children in the United States are obese. This number is three times what it was a generation ago.
Recently, there was study that investigated the effectiveness of mind-body exercises for children. Elementary school students who performed qigong (physical exercises and breathing control related to tai chi) were compared to students who continued conventional exercise. The students were grouped into three groups: Aerobic, mind-body, and conventional physical education activities.
Out of the 105 students who participated, all of the children showed some positive improvement, but the BMI of children who performed qigong decreased more quickly than the other groups. During the 16-week study, the researchers concluded that the significant BMI reduction and obesity problem of children and adolescents in the country, mind-body exercises such as yoga and qigong should be researched further as a means to help children control and lose weight.
Yoga is not only beneficial for maintaining a healthy body for children, but the mental health of adolescents is also affected. With nearly 8 percent of adolescents suffering from one or more mental health concerns, researchers believe that exercises geared toward helping the mind along with the body is extremely effective.
Researchers associated with Harvard Medical School studied the effect of yoga on the mental health of high school students. Coping strategies and stress management were studied after a 10-week session. The week before classes began, students were given a questionnaire measuring their mood, tension, anxiety, and overall attitude.
The control group continued with their regular PE classes while the other two groups attended yoga classes. Consisting of postures, breathing, exercises, meditation, and relaxation methods, the program was taught for a 10-week period for two or three times per week.
The students who participated in yoga rated the program fairly high. A week after the program concluded, students were given another questionnaire. Total mood of the yoga students improved overall compared to the students in a regular PE class, whose mood actually worsened. This led researchers to believe that yoga is a positive activity to improve the mental well-being of adolescents. Researchers also agreed that more research needs to be conducted in the near future if yoga is going to be implemented successfully in the school setting.
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