A 2015 study by UVM researchers showed a 23% reduction in the odds of children both thinking about suicide and trying to take their own lives if they exercised four or more days per week
“Just the idea of bullying and how it’s so detrimental to our mental health. Exercise could be the combative side of it,” says Nicole Adach, a mental skills coach with the Edge in South Burlington. “It fights that feeling of hopelessness to give you a feeling of hopefulness and that’s really powerful.”
Now, UVM researchers are taking their work a step further, looking at the growing threat of cyberbullying
“We need to be paying very close attention to the bullying kind of culture in the school systems and not just assuming it’s the traditional getting beat up in the playground,” says Jeremy Sibold, the associate dean at UVM’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences. “These things are happening 24/7 to these kids.”
Sibold is a lead researcher on the study which found that while exercise can help reduce sadness, suicidal ideation and the odds of a suicide attempt in kids who are bullied solely on school property, there was no such effect for those bullied electronically. Sibold says, with the most recent study, they aren’t looking at why but he has some thoughts.
“I would wager that it has something to do with the pervasive nature of online cyberbullying,” says Sibold. “You cannot escape it. It’s always with them on their phones, their tablets, everything.”
Adach says exercise can be about taking control which is why it could have such an effect on those being bullied, but cyberbullying can be a bit different
“The age of internet, all of it is so messy,” says Adach. “It’s easy to get stuck in that cycle and assume that. Assume that’s going to happen and assume you’re stuck there. So I think it’s really powerful, mental health-wise, to get exercising.”
“There’s still more work to be done, including looking more at the bullying environment and the type of exercise. But the study does agree that schools should promote exercise and consider it as one response to bullying.