Teens Who Are Active and Spend Time Outdoors Are Happier

Young people who stay indoors are more likely to be shy and lonely.

Posted: 06/28/2012 04:41 PM EDT
Active teens are happier teens.

There's something to be said for being outside and enjoying the sunshine as opposed to being cooped up in the house.

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia found that young people who were more active and spent time outdoors were happier, healthier and were better at socializing than teens that stayed in the house and watched television.

The team questioned more than 1,200 teens about how much time they spent outside exercising, inside watching television, working on homework and other activities. They also asked the teens about their self-esteem, how well they functioned with other students and their overall health. Researchers questioned the participants at age 12 and followed them five years later.

According to HealthDay, they found the following:

—Teens who spent an average of 2.5 hours more per day playing sports or doing other rigorous activities were the healthiest compared to their more sedentary peers.  
—Teens in the study spent an average of 3.3 hours a day playing video games, watching television or doing other sedentary activities, compared with only 2.1 hours in physical activity.
—More time spent reading and doing homework was associated with better school performance.
—Teens who were significantly more active had better social skills and got along better with their peers better. Teens who exercised less were more likely to report that they were shy and lonely.

Researchers suggest that parents should limit the amount of time their children spend watching television and playing video games and encourage their kids to be more active — a sentiment that has been echoed from health experts for years.

And while it's obvious that being more active is important, especially for Black teens and kids, given the obesity rates, these particular findings are extremely important to our community given how much television is consumed each day.

Last year, researchers from Northwestern University found that children of color spend more than half their day consuming media content — an average of 13 hours a day using mobile devices, computers, TVs and other media, which is about four-and-a-half hours more than white kids. The study also found that African-American teens are more likely to have a TV in their bedrooms (which can have a negative impact on sleep) and they are more likely to eat meals in front of the TV. Also, this May, researchers found that television lowered the self-esteem of young Black teens and children because of the negative stereotypes of people of color they saw on TV on a regular basis.

So with summer in full effect, perhaps it's time to log off and get some fresh air. It's good for the body and the mind.

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