Health Notes: Study says team sports don’t provide kids enough exercise

Surprise! A new study found kids don’t get the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise during practices for school sports.

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>> Study says team sports don’t provide kids enough exercise

Kids who play sports get plenty of exercise, right? Well, not necessarily. Only 24 percent of kids, ages 7 to 14, got the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day during practice for soccer, softball and baseball, according to a new study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

According to the study, kids averaged about 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity during team practice. Plus, “less than half of the practice time was actually taken up by exercise,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The study of 200 kids found that the older ones -- ages 11 to 14 -- got about seven minutes less of exercise than the younger kids.

“With older kids, the competition is heavier so they’re probably doing more skill drills and strategy,” James Sallis, lead author of the study and psychology professor at San Diego State University, told the WSJ, adding that younger kids tend to run around rather than stand still during instruction.

Soccer practice provided the most exercise -- about 17 more minutes than baseball or softball -- according to the report. “Fewer than 2 percent of the girls who played softball met the 60-minute recommendation,” the WSJ reported. “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.”

Sallis said in the article that parents who want their kids to be more active should look beyond traditional sport teams, and get kids involved in other activities, including fitness classes and dance classes. In the WSJ report, Sallis also suggested that younger kids “benefit from just running amok on the playground.”

So what? Getting kids to participate in some kind of physical activity outside of school may still be recommended even if they do team sports. That may not mean structured exercise on equipment but general activity such as running or playing harder can lay the groundwork for a lifetime habit.

For the scientifically minded: To read a summary (no cost) or the full text (fee) of the “Youth Sports Programs Contribution to Physical Activity” report, published on the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine website, click here.

--Marcus Woolf