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Not Even Kids on Sports Teams Get Enough Exercise: Study

By Katherine Hobson

If you’re the parent of a kid who plays on a sports team, you probably think he or she gets the 60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous activity recommended by the government and other groups.

A new study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine questions that assumption, finding that just 24% of the 7-to-14-year-old soccer, softball and baseball players studied — who wore accelerometers to capture their movements — got in their 60 minutes during practice. The average was 45 minutes, not so far off the mark. But the study also found that less than half of the practice time was actually taken up by exercise.

The disparities seen in the study, which included 200 kids, are interesting. Older kids (those aged 11-14) got an average of 7 fewer minutes of exercise per practice than 7-to-10-year-olds. “With older kids, the competition is heavier so they’re probably doing more skill drills and strategy,” speculates James Sallis, lead author of the study, psychology professor at San Diego State University and director of the school’s Active Living Research program. Younger kids are also more likely to run around rather than stand quietly taking instruction, he says.

There were also big variations by sport, with soccer practice providing an average of 17 more minutes of exercise than baseball or softball practice. Fewer than 2% of the girls who played softball met the 60-minute recommendation. And girls in all sports exercised for 11 minutes fewer than boys. Sallis guesses that again, girls are doing more skill-oriented drills than the boys.

The study authors say that the health effects of youth sports could be boosted by encouraging more physical activity during practice and emphasizing participation rather than competition, among other things. Sallis also says that parents looking to get their kids off the couch should “consider multiple options” beyond traditional sports teams, including fitness and dance classes. And research suggests that younger kids, he says, benefit from just running amok on the playground.

We don’t know about you, but this video for NFL Play 60, a program promoting daily physical activity for kids, makes us want to run amok on the playground too:

Photo: iStockphoto

Exercise, Prevention, Teens