Researchers involved in the study, “Influence of Sports, Physical Education, and Active Commuting to School on Adolescent Weight Status” in the August 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online July 16) conducted telephone surveys with 1,718 New Hampshire and Vermont high school students to determine their level of sports participation, other forms of physical activity, and height and weight status.
Teens who played on three or more sports teams in the past year were 27 percent less likely to be overweight and 39 percent less likely to be obese compared with teens who did not play on any sports team. Active commuting, such as riding a bike or walking to school, was not significantly related to overweight status, but it was associated with a reduced likelihood of obesity. Physical education classes for teens appeared to have little impact on weight status. The study suggests that high school sports participation, which involves regular practices and competitions, reduces overweight and obesity because participation involves moderate to strenuous activity levels.
Study authors conclude that increasing opportunities for all teens, regardless of athletic ability, to participate in sports should be a priority in obesity prevention efforts.