Research also shows that more supportive learning environments are associated with higher levels of physical activity among students.
Three out of four teenagers do not get enough exercise, and the problem is especially common among girls.
However, a recent study from University of Georgia revealed that fostering a healthier school environment can promote youth physical activity.
According to the study’s lead author Janani R. Thapa, school is important in helping adolescents form healthy behaviors such as good eating habits. The same is true for exercise.
The findings were recently published on Youth Magazine.
Thapa, an associate professor of health policy and management at UGA’s College of Public Health, said: “The length of recess, the facilities and the social environment at the school affected physical activity. student quality.
Georgia has implemented policies and programs to increase physical activity in K-12 schools. Thapa was a key player in the evaluations of these programs.
“Over time, the state has observed reduced levels of physical activity among all teens, but rates are higher among middle and high school girls,” she said. she said.
Thapa suspects that the school environment can play an important role in determining how comfortable students are with participating in school sports or other physical activities. The school environment includes factors such as social support, safety, and bullying.
“We don’t know much about the role of school climate on physical activity,” says Thapa. “There must have been barriers that some student groups face. Therefore, we wanted to investigate differences by sex. “
Using data from a statewide survey of more than 360,000 Georgia high school students that included questions about physical activity levels and school climate, Thapa and her co-authors were able to check that relationship.
The data covers eight climate characteristics: school connections, peer social support, adult social support, cultural acceptance, physical environment, school safety, your victim peer (bullying) and supportive school environment.
Overall, female students reported being less physically active than their male counterparts, with only 35% being active compared to 57% of boys. And physical activity dropped steadily from 9th to 12th grade for both sexes.
However, students of both sexes were more physically active when the school environment was considered positive on most measures.
One thing that stands out is the impact of bullying. Female students who reported being bullied were more likely to be physically active, while male students who reported being bullied were less likely to be physically active.
Bullying is the only measure of the school environment that differs for boys and girls. The authors say this disparity could be explained by different standards of exercise and ideal male versus female.
“For example, female students who are active in sports and physical activity may not conform to gender norms and therefore may face bullying,” says Thapa.
These findings suggest that K-12 schools that want to encourage physical participation should consider ways to increase students’ sense of safety at school and increase peer and adult support in the classroom. exercise.
Reference: “School climate-related determinants of high school boys and girls physical activity” by Janani Rajbhandari-Thapa, Isha Metzger, Justin Ingels, Kiran Thapa and Kathryn Chiang, dated April 24, 2022, Youth Magazine.
DOI: 10.1002 / jad.12052