seal  Purdue News

November 13, 2003

Teenagers' friendships, relationships play role in exercise trends

Like their taste in fashion and music, teens' exercise habits may be influenced by their friends, says a Purdue University youth fitness expert.

"There is an epidemic of obesity among this country's youth that can lead to chronic health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, at an earlier age," says Alan Smith, professor of health and kinesiology. "There always has been a sharp decline in physical activity for youth as they enter adolescence, and now that we are seeing more obese adolescents, it is more important than ever to understand this trend. What makes them lose interest in being active during this impressionable time in their lives?"

When it comes to fighting youth obesity, prevention and education plans need to consider how teenagers' friendships, and even classmates, affect their exercise habits, Smith says. For example, his research indicates that teenagers who have supportive friends are more likely to exercise. Teenagers who lack fewer supportive friends are more likely to have a poorer body self-image.

Smith can talk about his ongoing research that measures the attitudes, perceptions and participation levels of middle school students' physical activity, as well as how friendships and classmates affect the teens' interests in exercising.

A news release on Smith's study at a Lebanon, Ind., middle school is available online.

CONTACT: Smith, (765) 496-6002,