Why is Physical Fitness Important for Kids and Teens? Adolescent Exercise May Promote Longevity

Why is Physical Fitness Important for Kids and Teens? Adolescent Exercise May Promote LongevityWe all know that exercise is good for our health. Being active as we grow older is especially important for maintaining good digestion, preventing memory loss, and preserving mobility. But did you know that our physical activity level when we are young can affect our health as we age, too?

So why is physical fitness important during our youth? Research shows that exercise during adolescence may protect against mortality. Encouraging your children to be active now may help them to live a longer life. 

Exercise during adolescence is associated with reduction in mortality rates

The journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention published a study in July 2015 looking at the association between physical activity during adolescence and mortality in a group of approximately 75,000 Chinese women.

The women were enrolled in the study at ages 40 to 70 years old and were interviewed about various lifestyle factors, including how active they were when they were between the ages of 13 to 19 years. Information was collected on how often they exercised, for how many hours they were active per week, and whether they participated in sports.[1]

The researchers followed up on the women an average of 13 years later. They found that participating in physical activities for at least 1.33 hours per week during adolescence was related to a reduced risk for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality.

After adjusting for potential confounding variables, women who exercised as adolescents had a 15% lower risk for death from all causes. Being on a sports team or participating in sport tournaments also reduced the risk for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.[1]

Long-term exercise is even more protective

Exercising during both adolescence and adulthood lowered the risk for mortality even more. Participating in physical activities as both a teen and an adult was associated with a 20% reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 17% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and 13% reduced risk of cancer mortality.[1]

The results of this study can be explained by the many health benefits of exercise. Exercise improves immune functioning, lowers weight, strengthens bones, reduces inflammation, improves cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and more. The combination of these benefits likely confers protection against disease, especially cardiovascular disease and cancer.[1]

Encourage physical activity in your children and teens

It’s never too early to start healthy habits. Kids and youth can benefit tremendously by staying as active as possible. Not only will they be they healthier later in life, but physically active kids also do better in school, have better overall well being, and experience other mental and physical benefits in their youth.

Read about the health benefits of exercise for kids in Active Body, Active Mind: Why Kids Need Recess.

Being on a sports team is a great way to build regular, fun exercise into a kid’s schedule. If your child doesn’t like baseball, soccer, or other common sports, look for alternatives like dance, gymnastics, swimming, and more. Experiment with classes at your local community center to find a good fit.

Plenty of playtime, especially outside where kids can run, climb, and work up a sweat, is also essential. Encourage exercise by getting active as a whole family. Take family walks, go to the park together, plan weekend hikes, or organize a weekly family game of soccer. Whatever it is, just be sure to keep you and your family on your feet and moving as much as possible.

Share your experience

What do you do to make sure your kids lead a healthy, active lifestyle? Share your tips in the comments section below.


[1] Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015 Jul 31. [Epub ahead of print]

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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