Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Reasons to Make Sports Available to Youth

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As all of us middle aged parents know, the older we get, the harder it seems to be to find the motivation, time and energy to do the "moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA)" that we really need.

Sadly, high school youth and young adults, particularly youth from lower socioeconomic status groups, seem to be at particularly high risk for inadequate physical activity later in life. A recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health examined (1) cross-sectional associations between SES, sports participation, and MVPA in adolescent boys and girls; (2) whether organized sports participation during adolescence is associated with MVPA 5 years later; and (3) whether these associations differ across gender and SES.

Data for the study were drawn from population-based, longitudinal studies Project EAT (Eating Among Teen)-I and Project EAT-II, which examined dietary intake, physical activity, and weight status among young people. In Project EAT-I, 3,138 high school students in Minnesota schools completed in-class surveys and anthropometric measures during the 1998-1999 academic year (Time 1). Five years later (Time 2), Project EAT-II aimed to re-survey by mail all original participants for whom contact information was available. Follow-up survey data were collected from 68% of those contacts (N=1,710).

The authors found that kids in higher SES groups participated in more organized sports in high school and more MVPA in young adulthood. In addition, kids from lower SES groups who did participate in organized sports in high school were not likely to participate in MVPA during adulthood.

The authors suggest that increasing access to programs making physical activity an easy choice designed to last a lifetime should be a public health priority.
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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