Get out, get active

Published 10:31 am Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daily Herald Editorial

Teenagers who engage in physical activity have better self esteem and a more positive self image than ones who do not.

But don’t just take our word for it. A news report Monday from National Public Radio describes a study published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The study was conducted by the Trimbos Institute in The Netherlands.

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It’s been known for decades that regular physical activity benefits the body and the mind. This study sought to understand that link.

Researchers surveyed 7,000 Dutch students ages 11 to 16. The ones who had routine physical activity were happier, more grounded, had less anxiety, more sociable and less likely to engage in problematic behavior.

The study showed that students don’t necessarily need to be in organized sports as long as they have some activity that keeps them moving, such as jogging or cycling. But organized sports such as what is offered by high schools are a great way for them to get moving and, if they like, to embrace the thrill of competition.

With yet another study showing the benefits of physical activity for students and the lives they are going to lead as adults, it’s a shame that so often physical education classes and organized sports are on the chopping block when schools make cuts.

School — and high school especially — is about developing traits and learning lessons young people can use in the adult world. For instance, the types of stretches adults use before they exercise they probably learned from school, whether in a class or out for a sport.

Just like math, grammar, spelling and other subjects, physical education teaches skills people use for their lifetime. Cutting back on physical education or organized sports not only hurts the students, it hurts society. Adults benefit from a sound mind and body just the same. Healthy employees remain productive, tax-paying workers who are able to contribute to the common good.

The study also is a lesson for parents. Don’t just rely on the schools to be the only ones to teach children. Get them out to the parks and get them active. Shoot hoops. Play catch. Go ice skating at the City Arena. Enroll them at the Family Y. Go sledding at a local hill. A 2007 study suggests that active children tend to have active parents.

So get out there. It’s a beautiful day. Don’t waste it inside the house.