Why playing organized sports is so good for you

Presented by the National Physical Activity Plan

According to the YRBSS, more than half of U.S. youth participate on at least 1 organized sports team. The prevalence of
sports participation among females is significantly lower than that among males. Organized sport participation also differs
across ethnic groups, see Figure 9 [32]. The grade of C- was selected because of these disparities.

Participating on a community or school sports team is an opportunity that can increase physical activity and the prevalence of children and youth who meet physical activity guidelines. The available data to inform the grade for sports participation were obtained from a representative sample of high school students [32].

Organized sport participation is generally higher in younger children and decreases as they become older [40]. Sports participation also differs across ethnic groups, see Figure 9 [32].

The proportion of practice and game time spent engaged in physical activity versus sedentary pursuits and the type of sport are important determinants of the benefits of sports participation [41]. Data demonstrate that youth sports can be a significant source of physical activity, contributing 23 to 60% of daily moderate-to-vigorous activity [42, 43]. One study showed the odds of high school students meeting the physical activity guidelines for moderate-to-vigorous, vigorous, and muscle-strengthening activities, were 1.74, 1.92, and 1.53 times higher, respectively, among those who participated on at least 1 sports team during the previous year compared to those who did not participate on any sports team, see Table 3 [41, 44].

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Youth sports participants, on average, obtain 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during practices, but research suggests not all sports contribute equally to providing physical activity, see Figure 10 for a listing of sports programs favored by students. Youth seem to spend more time engaged in physical activity, especially vigorous activity, when playing soccer rather
than other sports, such as baseball, softball, and hockey [41, 45]. Leek and others found that soccer players spent approximately 14 more minutes in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 17 more minutes engaged in vigorous physical activity during practice than baseball and softball players [41]. Additionally, many participants spent only about half of practice time engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity with 27 to 43% of the practice spent in more sedentary pursuits and light activity, such as awaiting a turn to practice or receiving instructions from the coach [41, 45]. Sports programs could impact the physical activity lives of the children and youth who participate even more if practices and game times were designed to be more active and less sedentary.