The study, led by Daniel Rodriguez PhD, have reported that students who engage themselves in high school sports or individual physical activities are less likely to smoke than their classmates.
Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Centre of the University of Pennsylvania, indicates that the protective effect of participation extends at least three years beyond graduation. The researchers discovered, however, that girls do not derive the same level of protection from school sports, as do boys. Rodriguez reported that students who feel successful continue to participate and are less likely to start negative behaviours.
He added that an adolescent's self-assessment and sense of physical competence was an important aspect in smoking prevention. 'I visualize this as a fork in the road. If you are successful, then you continue doing sports. If you are not successful, then you are now in need of other reinforcement and start looking for other things. In that case, things like smoking become open to you,' Rodriguez said.
In the study, the team followed 985 young adults from 12th grade through the third year after high school. The analysis found that the young adults who participated in high school sports or individual physical activity were significantly less likely to smoke than their non-active peers.
The study found that physical activity reduced the likelihood of smoking 12 percent by improving the adolescents' perception of their physical self. In contrast to this, team sports reduced smoking 18 percent by improving their perception of their physical self and reducing contact with peers who smoke. Remarkably, the benefit of participation was still evident three years after graduation.
In the second study, the researchers followed 384 high school students. The analysis of the study found that participation in a team sport during 10th grade reduced the risk of smoking in 11th grade by 5 percent. In this case, the reduced smoking was due to an increased feeling of competence in their sport and fewer depressive symptoms in students who were on teams.
'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,' Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez contemplates that the student's environment and his or her feelings of success keep a student from starting to smoke.
'A structured activity keeps a student away from negative influences. It is not inconsistent for you to be physically active and smoke, but when you are part of a team, you are just not exposed to smoking. You don't have the opportunity to do something like start smoking,' Rodriguez said.
Seeing the findings, Rodriguez recommends that parents should make an effort to get their children involved in organized activities, whether it is a physical sport, like track and field, or some other organized activity and that they teach them how to properly evaluate their own skills.
The studies will be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's 'Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research' meeting in Philadelphia.