Facts About Youth Sports and Health
Sports programs get kids physically active — a significant step in addressing the steep rise in childhood overweight and obesity and ensuring a lifelong love of physical activity. Physical activity improves overall health, increases longevity, and protects against obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression, and anxiety.Exercise and sports participation can also enhance mental health and self confidence.Yet fewer than half of young people, and only a quarter of low-income youth, participate in organized sports outside of school.
Childhood Obesity and Related Problems
• Today’s children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents due to obesity and other related diseases.
• More than 15% of the nation’s children between the ages of 6 and 11 are overweight, up from just 4% in the 1970s.
• One-third of American children and youth are either obese or at risk of becoming obese.
• The cumulative lifetime risk of coronary heart disease is likely greatest among those who are persistently overweight throughout their adolescent years.
• Approximately 300,000 deaths a year in the US are currently associated with overweight and obesity.
• Obesity-related health expenditures have accounted for an estimated 25% or more of national health care spending growth between 1987 and 2001.
• Physical inactivity can lead to poorer health outcomes for children and adolescents.
• The California Department of Education conducts annual fitness tests in California public schools in grades five, seven, and nine. In 2007, only 30% of students were in the healthy fitness zone on all six areas tested.
• Only about one-third of children aged 9 to 13 participate in any organized physical activity during their non-school hours.
Positive Effects of Youth Sports on Health
• Physical activity helps control and prevent a range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Even small amounts of physical activity can improve health, no matter how much a person weighs or whether a person loses weight.
• Adolescents who participate in greater levels of physical activity are less likely to smoke, or they smoke fewer cigarettes.
• Female athletes in grades 9 through 12 are less than half as likely to get pregnant as their non-athlete peers, and they tend to have higher self-esteem and more positive body image.
• High school athletes are less likely to use cocaine or psychedelic drugs than non-athletes.
• Adults are more likely to be physically active during their free time if they participated in organized sports as children.