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Organized Sports Don’t Give Kids Enough Exercise

Study Shows Most Kids in Organized Sports Aren’t Getting Recommended Amount of Activity

Downtime During Practice

Significantly, players in youth sports spent an average of a half hour being inactive during each practice, the researchers say.

“Thus, there clearly are opportunities to increase physical activity in youth sports,” they write. “Based on current findings, it appears that youth sports practices are making a less-than-optimal contribution to the public health goals of increasing physical activity and preventing childhood obesity.”

The researchers say that the health effects of youth sports could be improved by adopting policies that ensure that children get sufficient physical activity during practices.

The suggested policies include:

  • Coaches and parents could stress participation over competition.
  • Teams should be available for kids at different levels of skills.
  • Lower-income youths should be able to participate more in sports activities if organizations devised sliding fees.
  • Youth sports coaches and parents should take steps to increase frequency of practices, make short seasons longer, and use devices such as pedometers or accelerometers to make sure physical activity during practices and games is sufficient.

Russel R. Pate, PhD, and Jennifer O’Neill, PhD, MPH, of the University of South Carolina, write in an editorial that more research is needed to find ways to make sure kids get more exercise and to make it more vigorous. And this should be done not just in sports, but for kids who take part in other physical activities, such as ballet, tap dancing, rock climbing, cycling, canoeing, and kayaking.

“We need to learn ways in which the doses of physical activity provided during youth sports and activity programs can be most effectively increased by modifying the manner in which the practices and contests are conducted,” Pate and O’Neill write.

They say more informal physical activity should be encouraged in homes and neighborhoods, and that to reduce obesity and improve health, physical activity for youths should be stressed more by parents and teachers.

“Available evidence indicates that sports programs can make an important contribution, but probably cannot be the singular solution to this challenge,” Pate and O’Neill write.

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