Regular exercise results in as much as 23 percent reduction in suicidal thoughts and attempts in bullied students, new research has found.
Victims of bullying are also at increased risk for poor academic performance, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sadness and substance abuse.
While previous studies showed positive effects of exercise on mental health are, impact of physical activity in reducing suicide attempts among bullied students were not known.
"I was surprised that it was that significant and that positive effects of exercise extended to kids actually trying to harm themselves," said lead study author Jeremy Sibold, associate professor at University of Vermont in the US.
"Even if one kid is protected because we got them involved in an after-school activity or in a physical education program it is worth it," Sibold noted.
The researchers gathered data from a survey of 13,583 high school students.
Overall, 30 percent of students in the study reported feeling sad for two or more weeks in the previous year while more than 22 percent reported suicidal ideation and 8.2 percent reported actual suicidal attempts during the same time period.
Bullied students were twice as likely to report sadness, and three times as likely to report suicidal ideation or attempt when compared to peers who were not bullied.
Exercise on four or more days per week was also associated with significant reductions in sadness.
"Considering the often catastrophic and long lasting consequences of bullying in school-aged children, novel, accessible interventions for victims of such conduct are sorely needed," the study said.
The findings appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.