Sports, Walking To School Reduce Obesity Among Adolescents, Says Study

Participating on at least two sports a year would significantly reduce obesity rates among adolescents, says a new study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics. Obesity rates would further decrease if teenagers actively commuted, i.e., walked or biked, to school.

That sports participation is inversely associated with weight and obesity among adolescents is well known. However, researchers at the The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, New Hampshire recently investigated the associations between weight status and different forms of physical activity including actively commuting to school among teenagers.

For the study, the researchers conducted telephone surveys with 1718 high school students and their parents in New Hampshire and Vermont. The researchers collected data on weight and obesity as well as team sports participation, other extracurricular physical activity, active commuting, physical education, recreational activity for fun, screen time, diet quality, and general demographics.

Of the teenagers participating in the study, 29 percent were considered overweight and 13 percent suffered from obesity.

However, the researchers discovered that participation in sports teams was inversely related to overweight and obesity. Furthermore, according to the study, rates of adolescent overweight would decrease by 11 percent and rates of adolescent obesity would decrease by 26 percent if teenagers participating in at least two sports teams each year.

Additionally, if teenagers walked or biked to school instead of driving, then obesity prevalence would decrease by 22 percent.

As the researcher conclude, ensuring that all adolescents participate in some sort of sport should be a priority in reducing obesity rates:

“Sports participation was inversely associated with overweight/obesity and obesity, even after adjusting for previous body weight. Increasing opportunities for all adolescents, regardless of athletic ability, to participate in sports should be prioritized for obesity prevention.”

Further research needs to be conducted on the lack of influence of active community on overweight among adolescents.

Do your kids participate in sports?