A recent study says 4-H students tend to engage in active healthy lifestyles more than their peers who aren’t program participants. Susan Carter reports
Over a two year period Youth Development Scholar at Tuft’s University, Richard Lerner has tracked youth who participated in community based constructive living programs, many of which are 4-H Healthy Living programs around the country, ”We start in 5th grade. We’ve gathered a sample of now over 7,000 kids from 41 states who are currently in grade 12.”
What Lerner found, ”There are important resources in the settings within kids interact, obviously families and schools are some resources, but also out of school time programs, that when they're coupled with the strengths of young people put them on a positive path. We’ve found that those kids who participate in programs like that, do better in terms of, not only of the healthy living characteristics, but also in the characteristics that mark the sign of a thriving young person.”
The longitudinal study also found that when compared to other youth, young people involved in programs like 4-H ”They are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercise, diets, using drugs less, using cigarettes and alcohol less.”
Lerner says that the findings of the Tuft’s University study reinforces the role of peer pressure and consistent positive activities in a child’s life, ”What you’re seeing here is that these 4-H programs are designed with the best ideas available about how to promote healthy lifestyle in young people to give them the knowledge and skills to remain not only physically fit, but emotionally and socially capable of meeting the challenges of their complex world that they’re living in. What we know is, is that peer’s don’t always have the negative impact that the stereotypes about the role of peers in development would have us believe.
Yes, young people certainly know other people that smoke, drink, participate in unsafe sex, bully, use drugs, but if you will, participation in a youth development program like 4-H serves as a protective factor. One reason being is that there’s other kids that are less likely to smoke, drink, etc. in those programs, as well. ”
The study shows that these kids tend to be healthier and contribute more to their communities, ”More than 2.5 million kids participate in 4-H’s Healthy Living program, so these programs are designed to work with the White House’s “Let’s Move” campaign and the President’s Active Lifestyle Award Challenge.”
National 4-H Council President and CEO Donald Floyd says 4-H’s extensive Healthy Living programs equip youth with the knowledge and skills that will prepare them physically, emotionally, and socially to meet the challenges of the 21st century.