Any Physical Activity is Good Activity
> 4/6/2006 3:37:18 PM

Keeping physically active has limitless benefits and has been linked time and again to increased overall well being. A new study by researchers at UNC Chapel Hill illustrates that for young people participation in atheletics and other physical activities can have rewards beyond those that we typically associate with these behaviors. The crux of the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, was on the effects on risky behaviors and decision making in relation to the type and amount of physical activities.

Unsurprisingly, the group found that the kids who displayed the best decisions in terms of avoiding risky behaviors like drugs, violence and sex, were also the same kids who participated in the most physical activities and watched the least television. Physical activity that also included parental involvement was an even greater influential factor in good decision making.

"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, including reduced likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as drinking, drugs, violence, smoking, sex and delinquency," said study co-author Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen.

Of particular note was the praise lauded on one group that traditionally takes a lot of heat: skaters.

The risk was similarly low for the skaters/gamers. Skateboarding may get a bad rap, since schools donít generally sponsor it, many public places ban it and not a lot of adults participate in it. "But we found that adolescents who skateboard actually fared well in terms of self-esteem and were less likely to engage in risky behaviors compared to teens who watch a lot of TV," Gordon-Larsen said.

This particular fact points to the idea that the nature of the exercise is not nearly as important as the activity itself. Getting kids up and on their feet, whether it be in an organized league or a solo sport like skateboarding, will teach kids a respect for their bodies that is impossible to learn anywhere else. If kids are taught, especially at an early age, that their bodies can do some impressive things they will be much less likely to take chances with what they put into those bodies.

Studies like this one aren't really about breaking new discoveries, but instead should be viewed as ammunition in the fight to secure greater public funding for things like community rec centers and even free skate parks that can be used by skateboarders, bikers, rollerbladers, etc. In the past, communities have vilified skateboarders for their delinquency, but in the changing climate of US culture, new "extreme" sports like skateboarding are replacing old standbys like baseball and pee wee football. By sponsoring skate parks, communities can make a statement that they encourage the safe use of the facility toward the goal of increasing physical activity. Give kids a chance to get out and exercise, and they just might surprise you by turning the TV off.

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