Wide variety of physical activities may protect teens against risky behavior: Study

New research out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that physically active adolescents are not only improving their health they also are decreasing the chance that they will get into trouble.

Among teens who fare well are skateboarders, particularly regarding their self-esteem and despite a lack of wide public support for this activity.

The study found that teens who participate in a wide variety of physical activities, particularly with their parents, are at decreased risk for drinking, drugs, violence, smoking, sex and delinquency, compared to teens who watch a lot of TV.

"Adolescents who spend a lot of time watching TV or playing computer video games tend to be at higher risk for engaging in all of these risky behaviors," said study co-author Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, assistant professor of nutrition, a department housed jointly in UNC's schools of public health and medicine, and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

"Anything we can do to get kids to be physically active will help them in terms of their physical health, but this research suggests that engaging in a variety of activities may also have social, emotional and cognitive benefits, including reduced likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as drinking, drugs, violence, smoking, sex and delinquency," Gordon-Larsen added.

The study is published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics. The first author is Dr. Melissa C. Nelson, who received her doctoral degree from UNC and now is assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota.

The study compared seven distinct clusters of adolescents, defined according to the types of physical or sedentary activities they participated in frequently. These clusters were identified in 2005 by Nelson and Gordon-Larsen, and UNC professors of nutrition Drs. Linda Adair and Barry Popkin.

"Our previous research revealed physical activity and sed

Contact: Stephanie Crayton
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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