Teenagers who are physically active are not only healthier than their inactive peers, they are also less likely to get into trouble, the results of a new study indicate.
Researchers compared seven distinct groups of adolescents. The groups were defined according to the types of physical or sedentary activities they participated in frequently.
Examples of these groups included:
-Teenagers who frequently played sports, particularly with their parents.
-Teenagers who often participated in school activities such as after-school sports and PE.
-Skaters/gamers, who did a lot of skating, skateboarding, bicycling and video game playing.
-High TV viewers, who watched a lot of TV and made their own decision about what they wanted to watch.
The researchers found that those who participated in a wide range of physical activities, particularly with their parents, were less likely to drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke, have sex or take part in delinquent behaviour, compared to teenagers who watched a lot of television.
"Adolescents who spend a lot of time watching TV or playing computer games tend to be at higher risk for engaging in all of these risky behaviours", said one of the study's authors, Dr Penny Gordon-Larson of the University of North Carolina.
The teens were also asked about self-esteem and the study found that those most likely to have high self-esteem were the teenagers who played sports regularly with their parents. Overall, those who regularly took part in physical activities had higher self-esteem than those who watched a lot of television.
"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", Dr Gordon-Larson said.
She suggested that the reason for this may be because teens who are physically active are exposed to more opportunities for team-building. They are also engaged in more social interactions with others and can see the benefits of hard work and practise.
"We suspect that all teens might not benefit from the same kind of activity - it's not a one-size-fits-all situation. It is also extremely important for communities and schools to provide safe and affordable recreation facilities and opportunities for physical activity", Dr Gordon-Larsen added.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Pediatrics.
Talk about stating the obvious