About three out of four teens played on a sports team, and the researchers found that those who played at least two sports per year were least likely to be obese.
Of the 492 teens that didn’t play on a team, about 40 percent were overweight or obese. That’s compared to about 22 percent of the 927 that played at least two sports.
Keith Drake, the study’s lead author from Dartmouth Medical School’s Hood Center for Children and Families in Lebanon, New Hampshire, said that playing multiple team sports may help more than just playing one because those teens probably stay more active throughout the entire year.
“It does give kids a consistent way to participate in moderate to vigorous activity,” Drake told Reuters Health.
He added, however, that simply playing one sport is probably good for kids, too.
As for walking or biking to school, Drake and his colleagues found those who commuted more than three days per week were least likely to be obese.
Meanwhile, extracurricular and recreational physical activities didn’t seem linked to weight.
NOT ALL SPORTS CREATED EQUAL
The study did have some limitations, including that the information was reported by the students and parents, which could introduce errors.
But overall, Stratbucker told Reuters Health that the study shows that it’s important for parents to encourage their kids to remain moderately to vigorously active all year long.
He cautioned, however, that just being in a sport does not mean teens are active.
“If a sport is what they want to do and it’s limited in moderate to vigorous activity, they’re going to have to find that moderate to vigorous activity somewhere else,” he said.
Drake added that it’s also important to make those opportunities available to teens.
“I think finding efforts to promote sports participation helps in our obesity prevention efforts. And this study - I think - speaks to paying more attention to that,” he said.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, online July 16, 2012.