The obesity epidemic has spurred many parents to try to get their kids to spend less time in front of the TV or computer and more time running around outside. But a new study suggests that kids who exercise aren't only in better physical shape; they're happier, too.

Canadian researcher Mark Holder and colleagues asked 375 children, ages 8-12, about what they did for fun, paying special attention to the amount of time the kids said they spent in "active" leisure activities—physical activities such as sports and exercise—or "passive" activities, such as watching TV, talking on the phone, or playing on the computer or with videogames.

Holder found that the more kids engaged in active leisure, and the more important active leisure was to them, the happier they were and the more positive they felt about themselves.

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Though their results don't necessarily prove that active leisure directly increases kids' happiness, Holder and his colleagues theorize that physical activity may make kids happier because it provides opportunities both to boost self-confidence and to develop stronger social relationships, which are key to happiness. While it's possible that other activities that reduce kids' "screen time," such as the creative arts, may provide similar benefits, this study gives parents yet another reason to encourage kids to go outside and play.

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