Youth Physical Activity, Sleep and Substance Use: Implications for Prevention Professionals

Youth Physical Activity, Sleep and Substance Use: Implications for Prevention Professionals

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2021) examined the associations between meeting 24-hour movement guidelines for screen time, sleep duration, and physical activity with substance use outcomes from a cross-sectional and representative sample of 10,236 students (mean age = 15.1 years) in Ontario, Canada. 

Overall, findings showed that meeting 24-h movement guidelines is associated with lower odds of alcohol consumption, cannabis use, and cigarette smoking differentially with type of recommendation met and gender. 

More specifically, this study identified physical activity as an important correlate of reduced cigarette smoking, short sleep duration as an important correlate of alcohol consumption, and both physical activity and sleep duration as important correlates of lower cannabis use among adolescents.  

The key implication of these findings is that substance use prevention should be integrated with the broader promotion of wellness lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity and sleep. 

This study also found, however, that meeting both the physical activity and screen time recommendations was associated with greater odds of alcohol consumption.

While this research did not examine specific types of physical activities youth engaged in, other research has indicated that varsity high school sports is positively associated with alcohol and e-cigarettes among adolescents ( 

Promoting physical activity, including sports participation, is critical to the mental and physical develop and well-being of youth.  

Since participation in some sports may increase the risk of certain substance use, such as alcohol and e-cigarettes, prevention programs should be integrated within sports programs to reduce adolescent risk for using these substances.  

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