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Kids + Sports = Better Health

No surprise here: Kids who play sports and do other physical activities report all kinds of health benefits, feeling better about themselves mentally and physically, a comprehensive new study shows.

The Women's Sports Foundation partnered with Harris Interactive to survey 2,185 children in grades 3 through 12 and 863 parents about the kids' participation in organized sports and other activities such as playing Frisbee and going camping and hiking. They found that ...well, they found too many things to report in a single blog; the document runs more than 180 pages.

In general, though, more kids who are active in sports regarded their own health as excellent than non-playing kids did and had higher "body esteem" than the kids who didn't take part. Moreover, kids who played sports were less likely to be overweight than those who didn't. Interestingly, the survey didn't turn up meaningful distinctions between active kids and others when it came to television viewing and fast food consumption.

The findings ought to reassure parents who spend lots of time shuttling kids to sports activities and lots of money on equipment, team dues, and other sports-related expenses: You appear to be making a good investment.

But the report also uncovered unsettling disparities. Parents of girls in rural and urban settings, for instance, said their children didn't have ample access to sports in school; disabled children also lacked opportunities to take part in sports. Given the benefits tied to sports participation, these issues clearly need addressing.

I found it refreshing, though, that non-traditional, individual activities were included in the mix. Not every kid's cut out for team sports; not every family is willing or able to devote the time or money team sports often demand. As one who grew up riding a bike and tossing a pink rubber ball against the shed door instead of playing soccer or softball, I value such activities and would hate to see them get short shrift.

Today's On Parenting blog looks at the survey's findings about the way sports' participation affects the family as a whole. You can read the whole report here.

Does your kid take part in sports? Is he or she in it for the health benefits or just for fun? Let's hear from you parents whose kids don't do organized sports but enjoy other physical activities. Are you OK with that?

-- Jennifer Huget

By Frances Stead Sellers  |  October 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health  
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Childhood obesity has reached epic proportions and I believe any type of physical activity is beneficial. My stepson is a fantastic soccer player. He is a member of a travel soccer league and he plays soccer in school. He gets great exercise, learns to work with other kids on a team and develops his social skills. Children can learn the same skills playing on a playground or kickball in the backyard. The important thing is to get our kids outside engaged in physical activity rather than spending so many hours on video games and television.

Posted by: Donna | October 13, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

DSD showed marked improvement with us when she started running with me. Not only the special bond we formed, but the major impact on her ADHD symptoms. From racing she learned to organize herself for the early morning starts, she learned she has to work hard if she wants to be the best runner in her age group, she learned to take pride in what she could do without comparing herself to anyone else. A small investment still working wonders for us.

Posted by: Stroller Momma | October 13, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

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