Active teens have enhanced quality of life

September 1, 2012

A survey of a large group of Australian schoolchildren when they were aged 12 years and again at 17 years found that levels of physical activity and of sedentary behaviors are associated with health-related quality of life (QOL), which includes physical, mental, and social well-being.

A survey of a large group of Australian schoolchildren when they were aged 12 years and again at 17 years found that levels of physical activity and of sedentary behaviors are associated with health-related quality of life (QOL), which includes physical, mental, and social well-being. Adolescents who were physically active over the 5 years had the highest self-reported QOL, whereas those who spent much of their time involved in screen-based activity had the lowest.

At the beginning of the study and at the 5-year follow-up, the more than 1,000 participants recorded the number of hours they spent each week engaging in activities such as dancing, gymnastics, swimming, football, soccer, rugby, tennis, and basketball. For sedentary activities, participants reported how many hours they usually spent each day watching television, playing video games, using a computer (for fun or for homework), reading for pleasure, and doing homework.

At the 5-year follow-up, investigators assessed health-related QOL using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL), a 23-item questionnaire that yields a total score, separate scores for physical health and psychosocial health, and subscale scores for physical, emotional, social, and school functioning.

Conversely, more time spent in total screen viewing was associated with significantly lower total PedsQL scores as well as lower scores in the physical and psychosocial summary and emotional and school subscales. Teenagers who spent the most time doing homework had higher health-related QOL than those highly engaged in screen activities; those in the highest versus lowest tertiles of time spent reading had significantly higher scores in the school domain but lower values in the emotional and social dimensions (Gopinath B, et al. Pediatrics. 2012;130[1]:e167-e174).

Commentary

It isn't clear here whether physical activity results in improved quality of life or whether students who feel good about life are more likely to be physically active. Maybe the direction of the causality doesn't matter, because there are plenty of other health-related reasons to recommend an active lifestyle.

Outdoor physical activity was most strongly associated with improved outlook. Is this yet another indication of the importance of vitamin D? -Michael Burke, MD