Even Young Athletes May Not Get Enough Exercise, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Sports, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

younger athletes

Too much time is spent sitting, rather than playing during sports practices, a new study shows. Credit: Corbis

Kids are so busy these days. After-school schedules are are filled with hours of sports practices and homework. Weekends are packed with games and tournaments. But at least they're getting plenty of exercise, right?

Yes, but it still may not be enough. Only about a quarter of children playing organized sports are getting the amount of exercise recommended by the government during team practice, the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reports.

Children and teens should engage in an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise each day, according to national guidelines, but fewer than 50 percent of children and 10 percent of teens manage to be that active, the report shows. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers youth sports a good way to get exercise, as well as social benefits, the authors write, but how much activity athletic leagues provide is unclear.

To find out, researchers from San Diego State University and the University of California, San Diego followed 200 kids between the ages of 7 and 14 who played on community soccer, baseball or softball teams. The kids wore sensors to measure how much activity they were getting during practices, and their parents filled out surveys providing family demographics and their child's physical attributes.

The researchers found that only 24 percent of the children got the recommended 60 minutes of activity during their practice session, although rates differed by sport and age group. Soccer provided more vigorous activity than baseball or softball, boys got more exercise than girls and the most active age group included 7- to 10-year-olds. The mean for moderate or vigorous activity was 45 minutes, or 46 percent of practice time, the report says, and the average child spent 30 minutes being inactive during each session.

The authors conclude that playing youth sports doesn't guarantee your child is getting enough exercise. The health effects of athletic programs could be improved if leagues adopt guidelines to increase the amount of physical activity during practices, the report says.

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