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An Ulster University research study has shown that TV has a key role to play in promoting physical activity among young people aged between 11 and 13 years of age.

The research compared four popular television shows to identify how physical activity is depicted to young adolescents. It found that while some form of exercise is exhibited by characters, it often takes the form of dance and does not demonstrate how it can be incorporated as part of a broader lifestyle.

This is one of the first studies in this age group to have taken place worldwide. Recent studies have revealed that a substantive decline in physical activity occurs during early adolescence, with only 38% of females meeting the recommended amount of physical activity per day.1

In light of the findings the research team at Ulster University is calling for TV programmes to show stars taking part in a greater range of physical activities to encourage young people to become more active, more often.

Regular physical activity is essential for our physical health but also our mental wellbeing. Encouraging young people to build physical activity into their weekly routine will have a positive impact on their mental health.

Professor Mark Tully, Institute of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University said:

“Research has consistently shown that adolescents are not getting enough physical activity. TV is extremely influential, especially for young people but our research has highlighted that although physical activity is portrayed, it is most often an activity which requires special skills or training like dance. When this is the case, less people are likely to be able to take part. Programmes can be influential particularly among young people and we are calling for a wider range of physical activities to be to keep young people, particularly girls more active.”

Mental health research is a key priority for Ulster University and with the establishment of a £5 million Institute of Mental Health Sciences in 2017, it brings together world-leading research expertise which will transform the lives of those living with mental health issues.

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