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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Study Suggests Connection Between School and Teen Exercise


A group of students interacting outside | Image by Shutterstock

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Roughly 75% of teens may not be getting the recommended amount of exercise, according to a recent study by the University of Georgia.

The recommended amount of physical activity for adolescents is 60 minutes daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study’s results indicate a sizable majority is falling short of this.

Researchers analyzed data from 362,926 student surveys in Georgia, with a sex breakdown of 48% male and 52% female.

The study’s authors concluded that the “school environment” plays a significant factor in teens’ inadequate amount of exercise. They found that physical activity increased for both genders when survey respondents reported positive associations with characteristics like school “connectedness,” cultural acceptance, and school safety.

Despite the positive correlations discovered, activity levels declined for both sexes as students progressed from the 9th to the 12th grade.

“Over time, the state has observed declining levels of physical activity among all adolescents, but the rate is higher among female middle and high school students,” said lead researcher Janani R. Thapa, speaking with UGA Today.

Thapa also stated that “the length of recess, [quality of] physical facilities, and social environments at schools have been found to affect physical activity among students.”

The researcher theorized that schools could address teens’ lack of activity by taking measures to “improve students’ sense of safety at school and bolster peer and adult support of exercise.”

Alternatively, according to the National Library of Medicine, there is a more causative relationship between mental health and exercise:

“Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.”

While 75% of teens are seemingly not getting enough exercise, a Harvard Kennedy poll revealed that 71% of young adults believe the U.S. is in the midst of a mental health crisis.

This connection suggests that schools might improve students’ mental health by addressing and treating the physical health of U.S. adolescents, the poll noted.    

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