The teenage years are important in terms of both mental and physical development, and staying fit during adolescence can have benefits that are both physical and psychological. The fitness habits a teenager develops during adolescence are likely to last a lifetime, and studies have shown that exercise can be beneficial to a teen’s overall health while promoting a positive body image.
Fitness and teens
The American College of Sports Medicine and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that a teenager spend at least 30 minutes doing some type of physical activity each day. Unfortunately, physical activity seems to diminish for many when they reach the teenage years. In fact, a study published in the March 2006 issue of ‘Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise’ found that more than half of about 2,000 girls surveyed, all between the ages of 16 and 18, were classified as sedentary.
There are various physical benefits associated with being physically active during the teenage years. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical fitness should be a key component in the life of a teenager, as exercise can help build strong bones, muscles and joints, and keep the teen generally healthy. In addition, exercise will also help a teenager control his weight by building lean muscle while burning fat. Another physical benefit of fitness is that it can reduce blood pressure in teenagers who have hypertension.
Fitness and IQ
A European study appearing in the December 2009 issue of the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ found a direct correlation between a teenager’s level of physical fitness and IQ. Using a government database, researchers examined data on 1.2 million young men born in Sweden between 1950 and 1976 who received physical and intelligence assessments when they enlisted in the military. The study concluded that being physically fit at age 18 is linked to having a higher IQ, and increases the likelihood of higher-than-average educational and professional achievements in adulthood.
A positive body image can result in an increased sense of self-esteem that will enhance other aspects of a teenager’s life, and fitness can be an important component in creating a positive body image. In a study published in the April 1997 issue of ‘Perceptual and Motor Skills’, several college-aged women participated in a six-week fitness-and-wellness program, with the goal of measuring changes in body image during that time. The study concluded that participation in this fitness program provided the young women with “a positive, proactive, empowered attitude toward their own health and well-being.”