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Team sports help teens stay fit
July 16th, 2012
11:10 AM ET

Team sports help teens stay fit

Active teens are healthy teens, but some kinds of activities may be better than others.

New research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics suggests that team sports may be better at keeping kids' weight down than biking or walking to school.

Study authors from Dartmouth College looked at the influence sports, physical education and commuting to school had on adolescents and their weight.

Investigators surveyed more than 1,700 high school students by phone and asked them how much they participated in team sports, what other forms of physical activity they were involved in and their height and weight.

The study found those kids who played on three or more sports teams in a year, were 27% less likely to be overweight, and 39% less likely to be obese than those teens who did not play team sports.  They also found biking or walking to school had less of an effect on a student's weight - although it did reduce their likelihood of being obese.

“We estimated that the prevalence of obesity would decrease by 22% if all adolescents walked or biked to school four to five days per week,” said Keith Drake, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Hood Center for Children and Families at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Drake's research also found that P.E. classes for teens seemed to have little effect on their weight.

“Active commuting was not associated with a lower risk of being overweight, which suggests that it may be protective only for adolescents who are already overweight or obese.  We were surprised by this finding, as previous studies of active travel have failed to detect an inverse relationship with weight status."

Researchers believe playing high school sports, which usually involve regular practices and competitions, reduces a child's chances of having a weight problem because of the strenuous and consistent workouts.  Therefore, study authors conclude, increasing a child's opportunity to play sports, even if they are not gifted athletes, should be a priority, especially for teens and children entering middle school or high school.

“Increasing sport participation in adolescents who do not play sports, are not athletic, or just not competitive may be challenging," Drake acknowledged. “Because our estimates suggest that increasing sports participation among these adolescents would lead to the largest reduction in obesity, expanding non-competitive athletic opportunities, such as club sports and intramurals, should be prioritized.”


soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. daneburksco

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    July 16, 2012 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ARandomGirl

    In this case. It's sorta a big "DUH".

    July 16, 2012 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Exactly what I was going to say.

      July 16, 2012 at 19:01 | Report abuse |
    • Nabu

      treats ailments pritaening to ligament, joint and bone injuries that come from playing sports. (such as a torn acl, ankle sprains and joint pain that can come from over exertion, such as shoulder pain in baseball pitchers)

      October 11, 2012 at 09:11 | Report abuse |
  3. BruceNY

    Team sports are the only sports available to kids, that why the only thing they can compare it to is walking or biking to school. Fit kids are staying fit thanks to the sports they were already practicing, big deal. How many fat kids became fit through team sports? Easy, none, but that's a trick question: we don't let fat kids into teams. We make teams by selecting those kids who are already fit and we call it a day. Team sports, while great to learn things like caving in to peer pressure, or injuring opposing players so the team can win, are detrimental to your kid's critical judgement. High Schools are full or pitchers and quarterbacks, but rarely a single kid with real skills like climbing a tree, doing a handstand, or climbing a rope...

    July 29, 2012 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Marty

    Bruce's perspective has some truth, but is not completely accurate. One team sport that is different than he describes is cross-country. As a high school cross-country coach, I have actually seen several "fat kids" become fit in this sport. One reason is that cross-country is a "no-cut" sport (at least I've never heard of a high school team that cuts kids based on ability). It is also actually a team sport, but does not involve negative peer pressure or attempting to injure opposing players. All kids have to do is show up, participate in the practices, and they end up having a bunch of great friends, become fit, learn teamwork, and generally continue an active lifestyle long after high school. Oh, by the way, most of the kids I know who run cross-country end up with GPAs among the top in their schools....

    August 22, 2012 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.