How Do Youth Sports Affect a Child's Daily Activity Level?

Article excerpt

What Was the Question?

Although many people believe that involvement in sports is a way for youths to acquire the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), relatively little is known about the degree to which participation actually contributes to meeting that goal. Consequently, Wickel and Eisenmann (2007) attempted to examine how much daily MVPA can be attributed to sports involvement. As a secondary question, they also assessed the contributions to MVPA from physical education and recess.

What Was Done?

The researchers selected 119 boys between the ages of six and 12, who participated in basketball, soccer, and flag football teams sponsored by parks and recreation departments. Subjects were asked to wear accelerometers during one full day in which they participated in a sports program. To provide a comparison for nonsport days, a subsample of 36 subjects also wore accelerometers. To help demarcate continuous accelerometer data, the subjects maintained logs to identify when they were engaged in sports, physical education, recess, or unstructured activity (i.e., time not spent in the three activities of interest).

What Was Found?

The researchers found that, of approximately 110 minutes of daily MVPA, youth sports provided 23 percent (26 minutes) of the total, and that differences existed among the three sports. Soccer had the greatest amount of vigorous activity, basketball the greatest amount of moderate activity, and football the greatest amount of light activity. In addition, physical education provided 11 percent (12 minutes), and recess 16 percent (18 minutes) of daily MVPA. Unstructured activities accounted for approximately 50 percent of MVPA. Furthermore, during youth sports, approximately 52 percent of time was spent in sedentary or light-intensity activities, 27 percent in moderate activity, and 22 percent in vigorous activity. Finally, data showed that youths accumulated about 30 additional minutes of MVPA and reduced their sedentary time by nearly 40 minutes on sport days.

What Does the Study Mean?

By articulating activities into categories and measuring actual activity levels using sophisticated instrumentation, the present study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how boys between six and 12 years old acquire recommended levels of MVPA. Clearly, the findings show that involvement in youth sports resulted in a net increase of 26 minutes of MVPA that was not made up on nonsport days. …