How to Make Your Teen Niece or Nephew Happy

Originally published on Savvy Auntie.

According to a study presented by HealthDay Reporter, Ellin Holohan, teens who are more active and spend their time outdoors tend to be happier while those “who spend more time indoors in front of screens are more likely to feel lonely, shy” (Women’s Health).

The study (2004-2009), conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia and published inPediatrics (July issue), has recorded teens with the “highest perceived health” (WH) to have spent an average of 2.5 hours more per day doing sports or other high-intensity activities than teens who were least active and spent more of their time in front of television sets and computer screens. These youths spent an overall average of 3.3 hours a day indoors – “playing video games, watching television or doing other sedentary activities” – and only 2.1 hours a day engaged in physical activity.

Bamini Gopinath of the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research at the university has stated, “Parents should be conscious of the fact that outdoor physical activity is beneficial to their child’s overall health and well-being, and should try to limit the time their child spends in front of the screen” – the study’s findings serving as more evidence of the benefits to increasing outdoor physical activity and decreasing indoor habits for teens.

1,216 teens were questioned during the study as to how much time they spent on both outdoor and indoor activities, which included computer use both for study and for recreational purposes. Questions regarding health and well-being (e.g., self-esteem and relationships between peers) were taken into account as well. Data was collected first at the age of 12 and then again at 17 – when a new study group of 475 teens was included.

Teens who reported being more active showed significantly better scores in terms of peer relationships and getting along with others while those who weren’t as active reported feeling lonely or shy.

Dr. Michael Rich, the director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, expressed no surprise at the study’s results, “It makes sense that these kids who are getting outside, playing sports and running around are going to feel better than those kids who are sitting alone with a screen.” Teens that spend more time being active outdoors will be “not only physically healthier, but socially healthier because they’re learning to work things through with other teens,” stated Rich. He brought up the point missed in study that some teens may avoid outdoor sports because they were less healthy from the start.

So, how can Aunties encourage their teen nieces and nephews to get outdoors and be more active? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer some tips on how you can make physical activity a part of their lives – and keep it that way!

-Set a positive example, and lead an active lifestyle yourself.
-Make physical activity a part of the routine when they visit by taking walks or playing active games together.
-Give them equipment or gear that encourages physical play.
-Take the younger ones to places where they can be active like public parks, community baseball fields, or basketball courts.
-Be positive about the physical activities in which your nieces and nephews participate; encourage them to become interested in new activities.
-Make it fun! Fun activities can be anything your nieces and nephews enjoy – structured or non-structured. The activities can range from team sports or individual sports to recreational activities like walking, running, skating, biking, swimming, etc. You might even suggest playground activities or free-time.
-Encourage them to head outdoors instead of staying inside to watch television after dinner (i.e., take them for a walk or a bike ride in the park or play chase in the backyard).
-Keep it safe! As a Savvy Auntie, always provide your nieces and nephews with protective gear (e.g., helmets, wrist pads and knee pads); and make sure that the outdoor activities are age-appropriate.

For 5 tips on how to keep summer playtime safe, click here.

Photo: pat138241





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