December 15, 2010
Are Our Children Getting Enough Exercise by Diane Scavuzzo
Soccer programs offer the best exercise of all organized sport programs, according to recent national report. Soccer practice provides more vigorous physical activity and offers a longer period of physical activity. Soccer out ranks baseball/softball for exercise.
How much exercise do our children get in organized sports? National guidelines tell us that children and adolescents should accumulate 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day. It is amazing that, based on these standards; fewer than 50% of children and 10% of adolescents meet these national guidelines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends youth sports as a means of obtaining physical activity as well as social benefits. But do they deliver what we parents expect? The answer is most sports programs do not measure up…except for soccer.
In the United States, an estimated 44 million youth participate in organized sports. But how much exercise do our children really get in these practices?
The recent findings of a report on this issue raise significant concerns on whether or not youth sports programs provide our kids with a real dose of physical activity.
When a parent drops a child off at practice, one imagines that their child will get enough exercise that would at least be considered meaningful from a public health perspective. Most of us would think our kids would receive more than this bare minimum standard.
Just in case you were unfamiliar with the standards, as I was before reading the long report… moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is a basic standard that kids need to reach to be considered physically active.
On average, 66% of boys and 34% of girl play in an organized sport program. It is now becoming clear that with all the instructions and waiting for turns, our kids are not getting a lot of physical activity in a lot of practices.
While sports programs have many goals from teaching technical skills to demonstrating the value of team work, one definite goal is providing physical activity. The programs are called ‘sports’, yes? Here are some of the facts: The number of kids participating in organized sports is astounding. The National Council of Youth Sports has estimated that 44 million American youth participate annually in structured sports programs.
At the high school level, more than 7 million students participate in school sports programs each year. The Centers for Disease Control has shown that nearly 60% of US high school students report engaging in sports programs. Obviously American kids are involved in a lot of sports. And it is big business in America. As parents, we all know how much time we spend signing our kids up and dropping them off at these programs. We never, ever stop to think ‘Are our kids getting enough exercise?’
What the study studied: Soccer and baseball/softball were chosen because they are popular with children of both sexes over a wide age range but they vary in activity levels. Soccer players spent about 17 more minutes per practice in vigorous physical activity than baseball/softball players. What the study discovered: “It is expected that one benefit of organized youth sports participation is substantial amounts of physical activity, but less than one-fourth of youth in the present study obtained the recommended 60 minutes of MVPA during practice.” In simple English, the study found that during soccer practices, “youth obtained a substantial amount of physical activity; 55 minutes of physical activity (MVPA), which was more than baseball/softball practices (41 minutes).
Further, soccer practices offered significantly vigorous physical activity than baseball/softball practices.
Soccer practices are an important source of physical activity for youth, and it is important to let parents know not all youth sports programs are created equal when it comes to providing real exercise.
The study concludes that "Providing young people with the physical activity they need is one of the major public health challenges of the 21st century." All of us soccer parents know that soccer is the game, and the game is amazing. Now, we can all know that it is documented that soccer is the best organized sport of our kids, in terms of getting physical activity.
The Study: Physical Activity During Youth Sports Practices
Desiree Leek, BS; Jordan A. Carlson, MA; Kelli L. Cain, MA; Sara Henrichon; Dori Rosenberg, PhD, MPH, MS; Kevin Patrick, MD, MS; James F. Sallis, PhD.
The details on the study for those curious and wanting more information.
Objective: To document physical activity (PA) during organized youth soccer and baseball/softball practices. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Community sports leagues in San Diego County, California.
Participants: Two hundred youth aged 7 to 14 years were recruited from 29 teams in 2 youth sports in middle-income cities with an approximately equal distribution across sports, sex, and age groups.
Main Exposure: Youth sports practices.
Outcome Measures: A sample of players wore accelerometers during practices. Minutes of PA at multiple intensity levels were calculated using established cutoff points. Participants were categorized as meeting or not meeting guidelines of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) during practice.
Results: The overall mean for MVPA was 45.1 minutes and 46.1% of practice time. Participants on soccer teams and those aged 7 to 10 years had significantly more MVPA than their counterparts. Participants on soccer teams spent an average of 17.0 more minutes and 15.9% more of practice time in vigorous- intensity PA than those on baseball/softball teams. Overall, 24% of participants met the 60-minute PA guideline during practice, but fewer than 10% of 11-to 14-year- olds and 2% of girl softball players met the guideline.
Conclusions: Participation in organized sports does not ensure that youth meet PA recommendations on practice days. The health effects of youth sports could be improved by adopting policies that ensure participants obtain PA during practices.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Published online December 6, 2010.