Exercise and diet are part of a good weight loss plan, but according to TIME, addressing a person’s emotional and mental well-being might also pave the way to healthier lifestyle.

Working with approximately 800 teenagers between 14 and 16 years old, Bernadette Melnyk and her colleagues from Ohio State University compared students who took regular health classes that focused on road safety and infectious disease with those who took sessions that focused on exercise, and stress management techniques.

The researchers discovered that those who took the sessions on mental and emotional wellness took an additional 4,000 steps a day compared with those who were in the traditional health program. Only 2.7 percent of those who attended the new program were overweight or obese, compared to the nine percent in the traditional group. A good 35 percent also dropped their drinking habits, and researchers also reported fewer depression cases.

While this information may be valuable to PE and health teachers, parents can also help their teens grow mentally healthy by fostering good relationships that their children could rely on. What’s important is to realize that physical health is only one aspect of total wellness–sometimes both the mind and the heart need a workout, too.

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(Photo by amareta kelly via Flickr Creative Commons)

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