This paper is a review of studies published during the last several years on exercise effects on overweight, growth, chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety in children and adolescents. Although the lion's share of the research involves aerobic exercise, studies on yoga and tai chi are also reviewed. Following exercise, body mass index and lipid profiles have improved in overweight children, and those with asthma, diabetes and depression have also benefited from exercise. The yoga studies reviewed here focused on ADHD and anxiety, and the tai chi studies involved children with ADHD and asthma. A potential underlying mechanism for the positive effects of exercise, yoga and tai chi may be the stimulation of pressure receptors leading to increased vagal activity, decreased stress hormones and increased production of anti-pain and antidepressant neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Further studies are needed using convergent behavioral, physiological and biochemical measures. Nonetheless, the current literature highlights the importance of adding exercise programs to clinics, schools and families for the physical and psychological well-being of children and adolescents.
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