Exercise Curbs Violence in Girls But Not in Boys, Study
Not only can exercise improve physical and mental health, it can also help decrease violent behavior among adolescent girls, a new study revealed.
The latest findings presented May 6 and the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC included data from a 2008 survey completed by 1,312 students at four inner-city high schools in New York.
Researchers from Columbia University wanted to see if there was an association between regular exercise and violence-related behaviors.
"Violence in neighborhoods spans the entire length of this country and disproportionately affects the poor and racial and ethnic minorities. It results in significant losses to victims, perpetrators, families and communities and costs our country billions of dollars," lead researcher Dr. Noe D. Romo, primary care research fellow in community health in the Department of Child and Adolescent Health at Columbia University, New York, said in a news release.
"There is a need for innovative methods to identify potential interventions to address this issue and lessen the burden it is having on our society," he added.
The survey included questions on how often students exercise, how many sit-ups they did and the time of their longest run in the past four weeks and if they were part of an organized sports team in the past year.
Researchers also asked students if they had carried a weapon in the past 30 days or if they were in a physical fight or in a gang in the past year.
Nearly three-fourths of the survey respondents were Hispanic and 19 percent were black. Researchers noted that 56 percent of respondents were female.
The study revealed that females who reported doing regular exercise were significantly less likely to be involved in violence-related behaviors.
Specifically, girls who exercised more than 10 days in the last month, did more than 20 sit-ups in the past four months or participated in team sports in the past year were significantly less likely to be in a gang.
Girls were less likely to carry a weapon if they did more than 20 sit-ups in the past four weeks, ran more than 20 minutes the last time they ran and participated in team sports.
Researchers noted that in males, none of the measures of exercise was associated with a decrease in violence-related behaviors.
"This study is only a start," said Romo, who also is at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. "It suggests a potential relationship between regular exercise and decreased involvement in violent behavior."
"Further studies are needed to confirm this association and to evaluate whether exercise interventions in inner-city neighborhoods can decrease youths' involvement in violence-related behavior," he added.