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To Steer Teens Clear of Substance Abuse, Keep Them Moving, Study Suggests

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Teenagers who are involved in sports or exercising are less likely to use drugs and smoke cigarettes compared with teens who are not as active, a new study suggests. However, Reuters reports that the study found high school athletes on teams drank more alcohol than their classmates who weren’t on a team.

Data from more than 11,000 teens, who graduated between 1986 and 2001, was included in the study. They were first surveyed as high school seniors, and then surveyed again up to four times through age 26. The researchers found that higher levels of participation in sports, athletics or exercising was related to lower initial use of drugs and cigarettes, which in turn led to lower substance use throughout early adulthood. In those who increased their activity level throughout early adulthood, frequency of use of cigarettes, marijuana and illicit drugs other than marijuana decreased, the researchers report in the journal Addiction.

The research found that about 38 percent of teens who weren’t active said they smoked cigarettes during the past month, compared with 25 to 29 percent of teens who were frequent exercisers and athletes. Among inactive teens, 23 percent said they had smoked marijuana in the last month, compared with 15 to 17 percent of active and athletic teens.

The study also revealed that 57 percent of teens involved in a team sport said they drank alcohol in the last month, compared with 45 percent of teens who weren’t active. Reuters reports that the researchers have many theories about why student athletes drink more, including peer pressure to drink after a game and the close tie between sports and alcohol advertising.

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