Study shows changing a school’s atmosphere can encourage more exercise among students

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Research has shown that 75 percent of teenagers do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise, however, a new study from the University of Georgia (UGA) suggests that modifications to a school’s climate may increase physical activity among adolescents.

According to the study’s first author Janani Thapa, PhD, an associate professor of health policy and management at UGA’s College of Public Health, school environments play a critical role in helping teenagers achieve their recommended amount of daily physical activity.

“The length of recess, physical facilities, and social environments at schools have been found to affect physical activity among students,” said Thapa.

For this study, however, published in the Thapa and her team of researchers sought to understand how the atmosphere of a school contributes to the physical activity levels of its students. To do so, researchers used data from of statewide survey which included more than 360,000 Georgia high school students. Researchers measured the school’s environment through examining survey questions about school connectedness, peer social support, adult social support, cultural acceptance, physical environment, school safety, bullying, and school support environment.

The study’s results showed, on average, students were more physically active in school environments they perceived to be positive. Overall, female students were less physically active than males, according to the study and exercise rates steadily declined from grades nine to 12 for both genders. In addition, the study found that females who were bullied were more likely to be physically active than females who did not exercise. In contrast, males who were bullied were less likely to be physically active than those who were not.

These results indicate that a school’s climate can have impacts on the rate in which students exercise. The study’s authors said schools should consider improving their environment and better promoting exercise to increase the physical activity levels of students.