New York, Dec 12 (UNI) Youngsters who participate in high school sports or increased physical activity are less likely to smoke than their classmates, a new study states.
The protective effect of participation extended at least three years beyond graduation. Girls, however, did not derive the same level of protection from school sports as boys did, experts noticed.
The study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reported that adolescent's self-assessment and sense of physical competence was an important aspect in smoking prevention.
Physical activity reduced the likelihood of smoking 12 per cent by improving the adolescents' perception of their physical self.
Team sports reduced smoking 18 per cent by improving their perception of their physical self and reducing contact with peers who smoke.
Students who feel successful continue to participate and were less likely to start negative behaviours, Researcher Daniel Rodriguez said, adding, ''If you are successful, then you continue doing sports. If you are not successful, then you are in need of other reinforcement and start looking for other things. In that case, things like smoking become open to you.'' Experts have advised parents to make an effort to get their children involved in organised activities such as a physical sport or games like chess that teach them how to properly evaluate their own skills.
''Most smoking initiation occurs during adolescence. So if you can make it out of that adolescent period, and you have a sport to buffer you from smoking during that period, you're pretty safe,'' the researcher said.
It was important for children to learn to compare their current skills or performance to their past performance and not to that of their teammates or opponents, Dr Rodriguez suggested, adding it would make them feel good about their skills, even if they are not the best at something.
Unfortunately, the researchers found in the study of 10th and 11th graders that girls do not derive the same benefit from participation in high school sports as do boys.
Exactly why that gender difference exists is not yet clear, but knowing there is a difference should help researchers look for smoking prevention measures that do work for girls.