Are teen girls who exercise less likely to be violent?
That's what new findings presented this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC suggest.
Researchers from Columbia University analyzed a 2008 survey of 1,312 students from four New York City inner-city high schools, looking for a correlation between exercise and violent behavior. Fifty-six percent of respondents were female, 19 percent were African-American and almost three-quarters were Latino.
The survey asked participants about the types of physical activities they had been involved in, as well as if they were in a gang, carried a weapon, or had been in a physical fight recently.
They reported four key findings:
- Female participants who had done more than 20 sit-ups in the month previous to taking the survey were less likely to carry a weapon or be in a gang.
- Girls who had exercised on more than 10 days in the last month were less likely to be in a gang.
- Female participants who ran for longer than 20 minutes the last time they went for a run were less likely to carry a weapon.
- Female participants who had participated in team sports any time in the previous year were less likely to carry a weapon, have been in a fight, or be in a gang.
The researchers found no connection between exercise and violent behavior in male participants.
Previous studies have indicated there are other benefits teen girls can accrue from playing sports. Research from 2002 found that girls who played a team sport were less likely to experience teen pregnancy, and a 2004 study found a link between playing sports and positive self-esteem.