I recently competed in a Danskin Triathlon with hundreds of other women and girls. Despite the independent nature of competing in a triathlon, I felt an incredible sense of compassion and support all around me. I made some friends from the start and wished them luck all the way through. From swimming through a sea of bodies in the lake, to hopping on my bike for an uphill ride, and finishing with a run on the hot pavement, I was so happy. And I felt that everyone around me was happy too.

It didn’t matter that my body was tired and I felt a nagging quench for thirst. There is pure joy that comes out of being active and self-motivated to keep going. The feeling that says, “I can do this” is louder than any discomfort that comes out of it. The finish line was more like a party than anything else; loud music, cold drinks and cheering fans greeted me. That’s what being active is all about— being happy — and there is something real and important behind this.

According to Medical Daily, roughly 2,400 teens were surveyed in a study aimed at concluding whether or not there is a direct connection between exercise and social well-being. After observing the different behaviors—from playing sports to watching TV all day—the teens that played any kind of sport for 2.5 hours or more per day reported better health and happiness than those who didn’t exercise. As a result, medical professionals are working to educate both parents and teens on the health benefits of engaging in physical activity. Specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that teens engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

The authors of the study say they must conduct further research to understand the factors associated with exercise and teenage quality of life. Despite that, the conclusions they’ve drawn so far paint a clear message for me: active teens are in fact happy teens.

It makes sense to me that sitting in front of a screen to watch TV or play video games for hours on end will produce unhealthy behaviors and unhappy feelings. These activities are isolating and reinforce a sedentary lifestyle. But of course we need to positively influence teens to get them away from the screen and into an environment that gets them moving.

We can’t simply pull teens away from their screens, (Medical Daily states that parents who restrict screen time actually have teens that are not as active as others) their disinterest surrounding activity and exercise will only grow. Instead, I think we should show them what’s great about exercising. And most importantly—let them pick their preference. In fact, there are even active video games today, like Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Sports. If a teen feels most comfortable in front of a screen, show them what they can do to stay happy while also being active.

So, the question remains: Why are some teens active and others are not? It’s true that we all have individual preferences when it comes to anything. When I was younger I was intimated by team sports, so I took up dance. It was fun, social, and a great form of exercise. I’ve moved on to other things today, which are far different than what I did years ago, but I think the best part about physical activity is that there are so many options. I haven’t tried everything out there, but I have a strong feeling that there is something for every teen.

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