Today, teens lead incredibly busy, often overscheduled, lives. Between their schoolwork, after-school activities, homework, and part-time jobs, there may be little time for frequent exercise. Yet, just as the consumption of regular meals is integral to proper growth and development, so is the setting aside time for exercise at least five or six days per week, preferably every day.
Regular exercise is good for all parts of the body. It supports the skin and bones and improves sleep and mood. It may boost your brainpower, enabling you to learn faster and retain more. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression, often seen during the teen years, and it supports the immune system, helping to reduce the number of colds teens easily transmit to one other. And, exercise is useful in the maintenance of a normal weight. For example, four miles of fast walking may burn about 400 calories. If you walk seven days a week, that’s 2,800 calories. If you do not have the time to walk four miles, try walking two or three miles or divide your walks. Remember, some exercise is better than no exercise.
In a study published in 2011 in the British Journal of Health Psychology, researchers from Ireland wanted to learn more about the association between exercise and depression. Their cohort consisted of 104 sedentary males between the ages of 18 and 40 years. The men were randomly assigned to participate in either a team or individual sport; the members of the control group did not take part in any sports. At baseline, they all completed a questionnaire. The participants were asked to attend a maximum of 20 55-minute exercise sessions over a 10-week period of time. A researcher monitored each session. Members of the control group were asked to refrain from exercise. Researchers collected data at week 5, week 10, and eight weeks after the trial ended. Eighty-four men completed the trial and were included in the analysis. When compared to the men in the control group, the men in both types of exercise had fewer symptoms of depression. The pre-to-post depressive symptoms scores decreased by 45 percent in the men who exercised in a group and by 52 percent in the men who exercised alone. The researchers noted the need for more research on this topic. “Because exercise-based interventions have the potential to reach young men, further research is warranted to examine the effectiveness, feasibility, sustainability, and cost of this type of intervention as a first line source of support for this difficult target group.” 2
Another study on exercise and depression was published in 2014 in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. For six years, researchers from Finland examined the association between changes in the frequency, intensity, and duration of physical activity in 1,959 men and women between the ages of 24 and 39 years. The participants completed questionnaires during medical examinations in 2001 and 2007. The researchers found that higher levels of physical activity were consistently associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms. “Both men and women who participated regularly in more frequent, higher intensity, longer duration, and higher overall of PA [physical activity] during the 6 years had a lower risk for depressive symptoms compared to those who were inactive.” 3
In a study published in 2014 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers based at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, reviewed the association between physical activity, sedentary behavior, and mortality rates in a large number of black adults. The cohort consisted of participants, between the ages of 40 and 79 years, enrolled in the Southern Community Cohort Study between 2002 and 2009, a total of 63,308 people. About 70 percent of the respondents were black and about two-thirds reported household incomes of less than $25,000. During the 6.4 years in which the participants were followed, there were 3,613 and 1,394 deaths in blacks and whites, respectively. This study included adults in urban and rural areas in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
Black adults who reported the highest level of physical activity had the lowest risk of death from all causes. When compared to the blacks with the least amount of activity, they had a 24 percent lower risk of death from all causes, a 19 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 24 percent lower risk of death from cancer. In whites, a higher level of physical activity was associated with a lower risk of death from all causes, but not cancer. Both blacks and whites who led sedentary lives increased their risk of all causes of death by 20 to 25 percent. The researchers concluded that their findings presented “much needed empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that more overall physical activity is associated with a lower mortality risk and that prolonged time in sedentary behavior is associated with an increased mortality risk in both black and white adults.” 5
In a study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers from Canada wanted to learn more about why Canadians with type 2 diabetes do not obtain a sufficient amount of exercise. According to the researchers, the Canadian Diabetes Association’s 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines recommended that people with type 2 diabetes obtain a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week; this exercise should be spread over at least three days. The researchers targeted men and women with type 2 diabetes between the ages of 35 and 55 years living in private homes in Quebec, Canada. They were randomly selected from the Quebec Health Insurance Board data. Two hundred participants completed baseline questionnaires. One month later, they self-reported their level of physical activity. The researchers found that, at baseline, the men and women participated in physical activities of moderate intensity totaling at least 30 minutes a day about two to three times per month. After one month, the same men and women were active about once a week. Obviously, this was an improvement, but it was still far below the recommendations. So, while the men and women knew they should exercise more, they were not exercising. The researchers concluded that there is a need to design “counseling messages to promote leisure-time physical activity among individuals with type 2 diabetes.” 7
In a cross-sectional study published in 2014 in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills, researchers from Switzerland compared the benefits of four types of exercise (aerobic exercise, ball sports, dancing, and weight lifting) on stress and depression in 201 medical students and 250 exercise and health sciences students. The researchers began with the hypothesis that all four types of exercise would be useful for dealing with stress and depression. Students completed questionnaires asking about stress, depressive symptoms, and exercise. The researchers found that the students with elevated stress levels were helped by the frequent participation in ball sports and dancing. No such effect was seen in students with lower levels of stress. Aerobic exercise did not appear to reduce stress levels. And, weight lifting was only effective in students with low stress levels. The researchers noted that “among Swiss university students, certain exercises may have better potential to moderate the relationship between perceived stress and depressive symptoms than others.” So, why was exercise not more useful for the more stressed students? The researchers added that “one could argue that highly stressed students are at a higher risk of making everything stressful, including exercise.” 9
In a study published in 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers from Denmark and Kansas City, Missouri, compared people who are sedentary to those who run lightly, moderately, or strenuously. The cohort consisted of 1,098 healthy joggers between the ages of 20 to 86 and 413 healthy people, between the ages of 21 and 92 years, who were mostly sedentary. The people were followed for 12 years. During that time, there were 28 deaths among joggers and 128 deaths among sedentary non-joggers. The researchers found that during the years of the trial, the light joggers were far less likely to die than the strenuous joggers and the sedentary people. In fact, the strenuous joggers had a rate of mortality that was not statistically different than the people who were more sedentary. The researchers commented that this “suggests the existence of an upper limit for exercise doing that is optimal for health benefits.” 10
1. Karolijn Dulfer, Nienke Duppen, Irene M. Kuipers et al., “Aerobic Exercise Influences Quality of Life of Children and Youngsters with Congenital Heart Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of Adolescent Health 55 (2014): 65-72.
3. Xiaolin Yang, Mirja Hirvensalo, Mirka Hintsanen et al., “Longitudinal Associations Between Changes in Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms in Adulthood: The Young Finns Study,” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21 (2014): 908-17.
4. Markus Gerber, Michael Kellmann, Catherine Elliot et al., “Perceived Fitness Protects Against Stress-Based Mental Health Impairments Among Police Officers Who Report Good Sleep,” Journal of Occupational Health 55 (2013): 376-84.
5. Charles E. Matthews, Sarah S. Cohen, Jay H. Fowke et al., “Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cause-Specific Mortality in Black and White Adults in the Southern Community Cohort Study,” American Journal of Epidemiology 180, no. 4 (2014): 394-405.
6. Elizabeth J. Bell, Pamela L. Lutsey, Beverly G. Windham, and Aaron R. Folsom, “Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease in African Americans in Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 45, no. 5 (2013): 901-7.
7. François Boudreau and Gaston Godin, “Participation in Regular Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Not Meeting Canadian Guidelines: The Influence of Intention, Perceived Behavioral Control, and Moral Norm,” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21 (2014): 918-26.
8. Maria Horne and Stephanie Tierney, “What Are the Barriers and Facilitators to Exercise and Physical Activity Uptake and Adherence Among South Asian Older Adults: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies,” Preventive Medicine 55 (2012): 276-84.
9. Markus Gerber, Serge Brand, Catherine Elliot et al., “Aerobic Exercise, Ball Sports, Dancing, and Weight Lifting as Moderators of the Relationship Between Stress and Depressive Symptoms: An Exploratory Cross-Sectional Study with Swiss University Students,” Perceptual & Motor Skills 119, no. 3 (2014): 679-97.
10. Peter Schnohr, James H. O’Keefe, Jacob L. Marott, and Peter Lange, “Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 65, no. 5 (2015): 411-19.
Bell, Elizabeth J., Pamela L. Lutsey, Beverly G. Windham, and Aaron R. Folsom. “Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease in African Americans in Atherosclerosis Risk Communities.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 45, no. 5 (2013): 901-7.
Boudreau, François, and Gaston Godin. “Participation in Regular Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Not Meeting Canadian Guidelines: The Influence of Intention, Perceived Behavioral Control, and Moral Norm.” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21 (2014): 918-26.
Dulfer, Karolijn, Nienke Duppen, Irene M. Kuipers et al. “Aerobic Exercise Influences Quality of Life of Children and Youngsters with Congenital Heart Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Adolescent Health 55 (2014): 65-72.
Gerber, Markus, Michael Kellmann, Catherine Elliot et al. “Perceived Fitness Protects Against Stress-Based Mental Health Impairments Among Police Officers Who Report Good Sleep.” Journal of Occupational Health 55 (2013): 376-84.
Gerber, Markus, Serge Brand, Catherine Elliot et al. “Aerobic Exercise, Ball Sports, Dancing, and Weight Lifting as Moderators of the Relationship Between Stress and Depressive Symptoms: An Exploratory Cross-Sectional Study with Swiss University Students.” Perceptual & Motor Skills 119, no. 3 (2014): 679-97.
Horne, Maria, Uptake and Stephanie Tierney. “What Are the Barriers and Facilitators to Exercise and Physical Activity uptake and Adherence Among South Asian Older Adults: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies.” Preventive Medicine 55 (2012): 276-84.
Kollarova, H., K. Azeem, H. Tomaskova et al. “Is Physical Activity a Protective Factor Against Pancreatic Cancer?” Bratislava Medical Journal 115, no. 8 (2014): 474-78.
Matthews, Charles E., Sarah S. Cohen, Jay H. Fowke et al. “Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Cause-Specific Mortality in Black and White Adults in the Southern Community Cohort Study.” American Journal of Epidemiology 180, no. 4 (2014): 394-405.
Schnohr, Peter, James H. O’Keefe, Jacob L. Marott, and Peter Lange. “Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 65, no. 5 (2015): 411-19.
Terry-McElrath, Yvonne M., and Patrick M. O’Malley. “Substance Use and Exercise Participation Among Young Adults: Parallel Trajectories in a National Cohort-Sequential Study.” Addiction 106 (2011): 1855-65.
Yang, Xiaolin, Mirja Hirvensalo, Mirka Hintsanen et al. “Longitudinal Associations Between Changes in Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms in Adulthood: The Young Finns Study.” International Journal of Behavioral Medicine 21 (2014): 908-17.