Associations between physical activity in adolescence and health behaviours, well-being, family and social relations

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Journal Article
International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 2014, 52 (5), pp. 271 - 282
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© 2014 © 2014 Institute of Health Promotion and Education. Across Europe and North America, few young people meet the recommended levels of physical activity (PA) of 1 hour of moderate to vigorous PA per day. However, the lives of young people cannot simply be polarised as either completely sedentary or active. Drawing on findings from the World Health Organization Health Behaviour in School-aged Children cross sectional international study, this paper examines the domains of adolescent life associated with young people's participation in overall PA, including health behaviours, social relationships and family activities. Consideration is also given to gender differences. Information in England was collected from 4404 students aged 11, 13 and 15 years, using anonymised self-completed questionnaires. Physical aspects of lifestyle were determined using internationally validated items for measuring PA that met international guidelines for activity and the frequency and duration of vigorous exercise undertaken during leisure activities. Separate analyses were conducted for boys and girls. Levels of PA and vigorous exercise were compared using the chi-squared test for trend. The findings draw attention to the value for the health and well-being of young people participating in some form of PA, even if they do not meet the recommended levels. Medium levels of PA appear to be associated with high levels of life satisfaction, self-rated health and an improved sense of body image. Significant health gains are likely to be made for adolescents in encouraging sedentary young people to undertake some form of PA.
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