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The Importance of Movement for Mental Health

Adolescence is a unique and formative time where changes in emotions like low self-esteem, feeling anxious, stressed, and down, are normal, but when those feelings are persistent and harder to shake, it could be more than just teenage mood swings.

Most youth living with a mental illness experience symptoms before the age of 18, but only 1 in 5 children in Canada receive the appropriate mental health services. Reasons why there may be barriers to services and help include fear of discrimination or being stigmatized, social exclusion, ashamed to ask for help or not even knowing that they need help, or misdiagnosis. Mental illness, when left undiagnosed or treated, can result in a steady decline of a person’s mental health and lead to a poor quality of life.

Many youth who journey to Covenant House and access our programs and services, have experienced traumatic life events, such as violence, poverty, abuse, and other forms of trauma, all which can negatively impact their mental and physical health.

At Covenant House, we see the benefit that physical exercise can provide in positively influencing mental health. Movement, paired with an opportunity to address counselling and psychiatric needs, can be extremely beneficial in building trust, breaking barriers, and healing oneself, from the inside out. Having access to exercise equipment and a gymnasium, as part of our wraparound services, provides many benefits to youth, including:

  • A judgement-free and safe space for youth to work on their fitness or to play a sport, amongst people they trust.
  • Fitness and recreational activities provide a fun, easy-going environment for young people to get to know each other and form trusting relationships, both with their peers and with staff.
  • Being able to access fitness and recreational equipment alongside our compassionate frontline staff, without leaving the safety and comfort of Covenant House.

In addition to the physical and social benefits, regular exercise is known to help with, and improve, mental health. Some of the benefits to mental health from regular exercise are:

  • The possible prevention of depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Improved cognitive ability.
  • Reduced day-to-day stress.
  • Improved academic performance.
  • Reduced feelings of fatigue.
  • Improved sleep quality.
  • Enhanced impact of addictions treatment, particularly in the reduction of cravings.
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved treatment of eating disorders, chronic pain, PTSD, schizophrenia, and body dysmorphic disorders.

Youth are at the center of everything we do, and youth feel valued and supported knowing that there is a community of people who care enough to provide this outlet for them.