2012 - Research

Influence of Sports, Physical Education, and Active Commuting to School on Adolescent Weight Status

This study compares the associations between weight status and different forms of physical activity among adolescents.

  • The authors conducted telephone surveys with 1718 New Hampshire and Vermont high school students and their parents as part of a longitudinal study of adolescent health. They surveyed adolescents about their team sports participation, other extracurricular physical activity, active commuting, physical education, recreational activity for fun, screen time, diet quality, and demographics. Overweight/obesity (BMI for age ≥ 85th percentile) and obesity (BMI for age ≥ 95 percentile) were based on self-reported height and weight.
  • Overall, 29.0% (n = 498) of the sample was overweight/obese and 13.0% (n = 223) were obese. After adjustments, sports team participation was inversely related to overweight/obesity (relative risk [RR] = 0.73 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.61, 0.87] for >2 sports teams versus 0) and obesity (RR = 0.61 [95% CI: 0.45, 0.81] for >2 sports teams versus 0). Additionally, active commuting to school was inversely related to obesity (RR = 0.67 [95% CI: 0.45, 0.99] for >3.5 days per week versus 0). Attributable risk estimates suggest obesity prevalence would decrease by 26.1% (95% CI: 9.4%, 42.8%) if all adolescents played on 2 sports teams per year and by 22.1% (95% CI: 0.1%, 43.3%) if all adolescents walked/biked to school at least 4 days per week.
  • Team sport participation had the strongest and most consistent inverse association with weight status. Active commuting to school may reduce the risk of obesity, but not necessarily overweight, and should be studied further. Obesity prevention programs should consider strategies to increase team sport participation among all students.

Drake, K. M., M. L. Beach, et al. (2012). “Influence of Sports, Physical Education, and Active Commuting to School on Adolescent Weight Status.” Pediatrics 130(2): e296-e304.

Authored by: 
K. M.
M. L. Beach