Walking to school, sports tied to teen weight

Teens who play a couple of team sports and walk or bike to school are less likely to be overweight or obese, says a new study.

Researchers found that of more than 1,700 teens, those who played on at least two sports teams per year were 22 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not. Those who walked or biked to school four to five times per week were 33 percent less likely to have weight problems.

The findings, however, can’t prove those activities prevented the weight problems, or whether something else could explain the link.

Overall, the connection shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people, said Dr. William Stratbucker, a pediatrician at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Healthy Weight Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“I think this is info that a lot of consumers will see as common sense. If your child is on sports teams, they’re less likely to be obese,” said Stratbucker, who was not involved with the new study.

The researchers say, however, past research on different activities, including walking to school, recreational activities and playing sports, have reported conflicting results on whether they actually cut down on obesity.


The researchers surveyed students and parents from New Hampshire and Vermont public schools over seven years - starting about 2002. The surveys were conducted over the telephone and recorded several pieces of information, including what activities the students participated in and the students’ height and weight.

The researchers used the information that was recorded once the students entered high school, which gave them information on 1,718 teens.

Obesity Related Diseases - Childhood Obesity Figures Statistics on Obesity, Excess Weight, Overweight

- Approximately 300,000 adult deaths in the United States each year are attributable to unhealthy dietary habits and physical inactivity or sedentary behavior.

- Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight (BMI > 25, which includes those who are obese).

- Nearly one-third of U.S. adults are obese (BMI > 30).

- The prevalence of overweight and obesity has steadily increased over the years among genders, all ages, all racial/ethnic groups, and all educational levels.

- Approximately 19% of children (ages 6–11) and 17% of adolescents (ages 12–19) were overweight in 2000. An additional 15% of children and adolescents were at risk for overweight (based on BMI / body mass index measures).

- An estimated 70 percent of diabetes risk in the U.S. can be attributed to excess weight.

- Americans spend $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services.

- The cost of obesity to individuals families: It will cost approximately $549,907 for an obese 18 year old to remain obese throughout adulthood.

- About 25 percent of young people (ages 12–21 years) participate in light to moderate activity (e.g., walking, bicycling) nearly every day. About 50 percent regularly engage in vigorous physical activity. Approximately 25 percent report no vigorous physical activity, and 14 percent report no recent vigorous or light to moderate physical activity.

- The percentage of children and adolescents who are defined as overweight has more than doubled since the early 1970s.

- In 1999-2000, over 10 percent of younger preschool children between ages 2 and 5 are overweight, up from 7 percent in 1994

Overall, 29 percent of the teens were overweight or obese.

The researchers, who published their study in the journal Pediatrics on Monday, then looked at which activities seemed to be linked to the least risk of weight problems.

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