Teens who play on more than one sports team during the year are far less likely to become overweight or obese, a new study suggests.
In fact, Dartmouth College researchers concluded that the obesity rate among high schoolers could be cut by more than 26 percent if all teens signed up for multiple team sports, according to the study, published today in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers also found that kids who bike or walk to school are less likely to become obese. If every kid in the country biked or walked to school at least four days a week, then obesity could be cut by 22 percent, they reported.
“I know that coordinating schedules can be difficult in terms of getting kids to practices and games,” said study co-author Keith Drake, a post doctoral research fellow at the Hood Center for Children and Families at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “But it does look to us like getting kids involved in sports may be the best chance we have to get them physically active and to help them maintain a healthy body weight.”
Playing on a single team didn’t appear to have a strong effect. Still, Drake said: “Playing on one team is probably better than playing on none.”
Almost three-quarters of the teens who were studied reported playing on sports teams: 17 percent played on one team, 19 percent on two teams and 33 percent on three or more teams.
When the researchers accounted for factors such as weight at the beginning of the study, diet, gender and race, they found that the kids were much less likely to become overweight or obese if they played on two or more teams during the year.
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