Physical Activity Keeps Teens Out of Trouble

As you know, more than a third of American teens are at rock bottom on the fitness scale and that will, no doubt, have a devastating effect on their health later on in life. Apparently, the opposite -- getting any kind of physical activity at all -- is just as true and beneficial to their mental and physical health, according to a new study.

Based on a survey of some 12,000 teens attending middle schools and high schools, those who stay away from the TV and are physically active in any way tend to stay away from health-harming habits (smoking, drinking, having risky sex and taking illegal drugs) and have better grades and self-esteem.

Beyond the hot and steamy content of some programs, TV watching tends to make teen viewers much more passive, causing them to miss the vital social contact they need to develop new skills, better teamwork habits and more life experiences, the lead researcher points out.

That said, teens need not play organized sports like football or basketball to benefit. Fun activities such as skating and skateboarding were also associated with better self-esteem and behaviors and less trouble.

Here's a related dual benefit: Teens who played sports with their parents were less trouble at home and school and, I suspect, a lot more physically fit too. That's one more sign, parents can have a significant effect on their teen's health habits, if they choose to.

Pediatrics, Vol. 117, No. 4, April 2006: 1281-1290

Yahoo News April 5, 2006

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