British Psychological Society Get Teens Exercising

Thursday 18th February 2010

According to recent research that has been published in the British Journal of Health Psychology by focusing on the emotional outcomes of exercise it is more likely to encourage younger people to exercise than the standard health benefits. The study involved text messages to a group of volunteers with the messages focusing on different benefits from exercise.

The team of researchers were from the University of Leeds; conducted by Reema Sirriyeh and colleagues, the study chose a random group of young people from schools in West Yorkshire. Aged from 16 to 19 years, 128 volunteers received a daily text message from the researchers. The messages were divided into three groups; one focused on emotional benefits, e.g. exercise can make you happy; another focused on the physical benefits, e.g. a healthy heart; and one contained a mixture of the two. Using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire they then recorded their amounts of exercise each day for two weeks.

The results revealed that on average the amount of exercise participated in increased by just over half an hour to their usual activity. However, the group who received messages stressing the emotional benefits of physical activity increased their exercise by almost two hours! The researchers hope that their study will encourage people to begin highlighting the emotional benefits alongside the physical in order to get more young people active. Additionally, previous studies have shown that people who look at exercise as fun are more likely to embark upon a fitness regime than those who see it as a chore. Reema Sirriyeh stresses that it is “vitally” important for teenagers to have healthy and regular exercise patterns. 


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