It may seem obvious that an active lifestyle would be good for overall health in young teens. A recent study out of West Virginia University not only confirms this belief but finds that taking part in sports brings benefits to a young teen’s physical, social and mental well-being.
Led by Dr. Keith Zullig and Rebecca White, the study was the first to show physical and mental health benefits of sports participation in 12- to 14-year-old adolescents specifically.
Findings revealed that out of 245 middle-school teenagers interviewed, those who were physically active and played on sports teams were more satisfied with their life and felt healthier.
Researchers noted that although the benefits of physical activity are well documented among teenagers, middle school children are an understudied population in adolescent physical activity research.
For the study, boys and girls ages 12 to 14 years were asked to fill out questionnaires that assessed activity level as well as their overall satisfaction with life. They were also asked to describe their perception of their current state of health.
The line of questioning was designed to explore the relationship between physical activity, life satisfaction and self-rated health concurrently.
Playing on a sports team was linked to higher life satisfaction in both boys and girls. Boys were five times more likely to describe their health as fair or poor when they were not playing on a sports team, and girls were 30 times more likely to provide the same details.
Participation in vigorous activity outside of a sports team environment produced no real effect on either life satisfaction or self-rated health in boys. In contrast, girls who indicated that they had taken part in vigorous activity during the prior week were significantly more satisfied with their life compared to girls who had not.
Participation in vigorous activity outside of a sports team proved to have no effect on self-rated health in girls.
The authors concluded that “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 new study is published online in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.
Other recent studies found that one in 20 adolescents was sedentary, while more than eight in 20 didn’t participate in sports. A 2008 study found that 30 percent of 15-year-olds exercise one hour per day.
A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity noted that teens who participate in organized sports during early adolescence maintain higher levels of physical activity during late adolescence compared to their peers.
Source: West Virginia University