Sporty Teen Girls Safer

Violence risk factors were lower in teen girls who got exercise or played a sport

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Exercise is healthy for a number of reasons. For teens in inner city schools, exercise and team sports may provide a bit of a buffer from violence, especially for girls.

A recent study asked a group of teenagers at four inner city high schools in New York City about their exercise habits and exposure to violence.

The results of this study showed that teenage girls who exercised more were less likely to carry a weapon, be in a gang or get into physical fights compared to girls who did not exercise.

"Encourage your teen to exercise."

Noe D. Romo, MD, a research fellow in the Department of Child and Adolescent Health at Columbia University in New York, presented research results at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual conference on exposure to violence in teenage girls.

“Community violence causes huge costs in death and disability to youth,” said the study authors.

This study set out to investigate whether regular exercise would lower exposure to violence in inner city teenagers.

For this study, the researchers used data from surveys used in the existing Partners and Peers Study in four high schools in New York City.

The surveys asked 1,312 students in 2008 about their exercise habits and violence risk factors. Survey questions helped the researchers gather information about:

  • How often the students had exercised in the previous month
  • How many students participated in a team sport, and for how many months in the previous year
  • How many students ran, and for how long, in the previous month
  • How many sit-ups each student did in the previous month
  • How many students carried a weapon in the previous month
  • How many students had been in a physical fight, and how many fights, in the previous year
  • How many students had been in a gang in the previous year

The results of the study showed that teenage girls that exercised more than 10 days in the previous month were 2.5 times less likely to be in gangs compared to girls who did not exercise.

Girls that did more than 20 sit ups in the previous month were more than 2 times less likely to carry a weapon or be in a gang compared to girls who did not do sit ups.

Girls who ran more than 20 minutes in the previous month were nearly 3 times less likely to carry a weapon in the past month compared to girls who did not run.

Both teenage boys and girls were less likely to be in physical fights, be in a gang or carry a weapon if they participated in a team sport in the past year compared to teens that did not play team sports.

“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,” said Dr. Romo.

“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,” said Dr. Romo.

The study authors recommend further studies on possible interventions and exercise programs to help protect at-risk teenagers in America.

Costs for many team sports are absorbed by public high schools and vary significantly based on the type of sport.

This research was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting held in Washington, D.C. May 4-7, 2013. This study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No outside funding sources were reported. No conflicts of interests were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 5, 2013
Last Updated:
October 30, 2013