Exercise during teenage years ‘crucial for staying active into adulthood’, study finds

By Staff 7 Min Read

A study of 26,000 people across the world found that the ages of 15 to 17 are the most important for exercise to have a lasting impact on mental health and wellbeing

Exercise during teenage years is crucial for staying active into adulthood with the ages of 15 to 17 the most important to see life-long benefits.

A study, of 26,000 people across the world, found those who dropped out of exercise before the age of 15 showed lower activity levels and mental health later in life. With 11 per cent less focused, 10 per cent less confident and 10 per cent less calm. The ASICS 2024 State of Mind study also uncovered an exercise generation gap, with younger people becoming increasingly less active.

But the report also suggests it’s not too late to start – with millennial and Gen Z women having most to gain from exercising more as their mental wellbeing is most largely impacted by regular exercise. Professor Brendon Stubbs, a leading researcher in exercise and mental health from King’s College London, who led the study, said: “It is worrying to see this decline in activity levels from younger respondents at such a critical age. Particularly as the study uncovered an association with lower wellbeing in adulthood.”

“Gen Zs across the world are already exhibiting the lowest State of Mind scores in comparison to the Silent Generation, so this could be hugely impactful for future mental wellbeing across the world.” The study assessed respondents on their ‘State of Mind’ score, giving different countries a rank out of 100. Overall, the average State of Mind score in the UK is 61/100, four points lower than the global average of 65/100.

In fact, British people have one of the lowest scores across the globe, coming 17th out of the 22 countries surveyed. Levels of physical activity are also slightly below average, with 55 per cent of the population exercising regularly compared to the global average of 56 per cent. In the UK, those who regularly exercised at 15 to 17 years-old have an average score of 62/100 in adulthood, whereas those who were not active during those years have a score of 58/100.

In comparison, respondents who dropped out of exercise before the age of 15 display the lowest activity levels and State of Mind scores in adulthood. But every year a teenager remained engaged in regular exercise is associated with improved scores in adulthood. Globally, those who stopped exercising before the age of 15 display an average State of Mind score 15 per cent lower than the global average.

While a decline in physical activity at 16 to 17 – and before the age of 22 – reduced their average scores by 13 per cent and six per cent respectively. The study also uncovered an exercise generation gap, with younger generations being increasingly less active, impacting their score.

In the UK, 55 per cent of the Silent Generation (aged 78+) were active daily in their early childhood, compared to 35 per cent of millennials (aged 28-42) and just 21 per cent of Gen Z (aged 18-27). Showing a concerning trend of younger generations being less active and dropping out of physical activity earlier than the ones before them.

Gary Raucher, from ASICS, said: “Sport and exercise benefit not only the body, but also the mind. It’s why we’re called ASICS: ‘Anima Sana in Corpore Sano’ or ‘Sound Mind in a Sound Body’. The results of our second global State of Mind Study show how important it is that young people stay active and the impact this can have on their minds for years to come. We’re committed to supporting and inspiring people to move for positive mental wellbeing throughout their lifetime.”

Share This Article
Leave a comment