Teens interested in healthy minds—and ripped bodies

September 10, 2013, Concordia University

Dreams of washboard abs and toned arms may seem to be the main motivation for the average teen to lace up their running shoes. But over 1,000 Montreal high school students disagree. Teens, it seems, are smarter than their parents when it comes to approaching exercise as something that affects one's whole body.

In a recent study on adolescent perceptions surrounding physical activity, James Gavin, professor in Concordia University's Department of Applied Human Sciences, found that teens are just as aware of the mental benefits of exercise—such as increased confidence, self-esteem and autonomy—as they are of physical benefits.

"We're looking at a generation that has grown up with parents who have yo-yo'd around exercise, talked incessantly about what they should do and what they haven't been doing. These adolescents are savvy about the lingo of exercise, seeing it as part of a lifestyle whereas a generation ago there might have been less of a pervasive awareness," says Gavin.

Prompted in part by current statistics that show most teens are not getting enough exercise, Gavin and his colleagues surveyed students from both public and private schools in Montreal. The researchers gauged teens' perceptions of physical activity by interviewing participants in small groups and asking them to discuss questions such as what they thought people got out of exercise, and how they thought physical activity affected overall mood, actions, and personality.

Although teens did comment on physical benefits of exercise like flexibility and endurance, they also perceived elements like leadership and team skills development, positive , and character development to be just as beneficial. The study also found that these responses were equally common among boys and girls.

Gavin, who is also Director of the Centre for Human Relations and Community Studies at Concordia, says he was surprised to find that the teens were so aware of the benefits associated with physical activity. He feels that the news about the teens' sophisticated understanding of physical activities should be a wakeup call to those who market exercise based solely on looks. "It's a hugely important finding because the marketing of to both adolescents and adults has been largely around how it makes you look better, helps you lose weight," he says.

Also interesting was ' advice when asked what suggestions they would have for their physical education instructors. "The predominant response was 'we need more variety, choice, and flexibility,'" says Gavin, adding that many said they were on the lookout for new ways to interest themselves in . "If physical education in the school system looks like running around a gym and doing calisthenics, or playing certain games they've been playing since grade school, then it may not have the appeal or impact they are looking for," says Gavin.

Explore further: Exercising with others helps college students reduce stress

Related Stories

Exercising with others helps college students reduce stress

September 4, 2013
College students who exercised vigorously for 20 minutes at least three days a week were less likely to report poor mental health and perceived stress, according to a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion. However, ...

Overweight teens get mental health boost from even small amounts of exercise

October 1, 2012
Being obese at any age is commonly associated with a litany of health issues, ranging from diabetes and chronic fatigue to heart complications. Overweight adolescents are also at an increased risk of body dissatisfaction, ...

With weekly exercise, time trumps frequency

July 12, 2013
(HealthDay)—Good news for weekend warriors: The number of times you exercise in a week isn't as important as getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity, a new study finds.

More than one-third of California teens do not participate in school physical education

May 31, 2011
Despite a state requirement that public middle and high school students get 400 minutes of physical education every 10 days, approximately 1.3 million — more than a third (38 percent) of all adolescents enrolled in California ...

Park perks: Teenagers who live close to a park are more physically active

March 28, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—California teenagers who live close to a park or open space are more likely to get exercise than those who live in areas without parks nearby, a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research ...

Study finds overweight teens want to lose weight, going about it the wrong way

November 1, 2011
About 14 percent of Philadelphia's high school students are considered overweight, and while a myriad of research has been published on what schools, communities and parents can do to help curb these rates, very little information ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.