New research says get young teens into exercise – it’s good for their health and happiness

Group of girls on a soccer teamHow good is sport for young teenagers? New research shows that sport is good for physical and mental health in 12- 14-year-olds, and it benefits them socially.

Dr. Keith Zullig and Rebecca White, from West Virginia University in the US, found that middle-school teenagers who are physically active and play on sports teams are more satisfied with their life and feel healthier than their inactive peers.

The authors studied the link between physical activity (including playing sport), life satisfaction and self-rated health together, for the first time, of 245 male and female students in grades 7 and 8. The students filled-in questionnaires to assess their physical activity level and satisfaction of life. They were also asked to describe their own health.

In boys, taking part in vigorous physical activity had no effect on life satisfaction or self-rated health. In girls, those who had done some vigorous activity in the last week were more satisfied with their life compared to girls who had not. Doing vigorous activity had no effect on girls’ self-rated health.

Playing on a sports team was linked to higher life satisfaction in both boys and girls. Boys were five times more likely, and girls 30 times more likely, to say their health was fair/poor when they were not playing on a sports team.

The authors conclude: “Our study demonstrates the benefits of youth sports participation on self-rated health and life satisfaction among young youth at a critical juncture in adolescent development. Our findings suggest that sports team participation may enhance school connectedness, social support and bonding among friends and teammates.”

The study was published online in Springer’s journal Applied Research in Quality of Life in September 2010. It’s the first study to show the benefits of sport in 12- 14-year-olds. The benefits of physical activity are well documented in teenagers, however middle school children are an understudied group in adolescent physical activity research.

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