Study: Organized sports not enough to fulfill activity requirements
Organized sports don't provide children with nearly as much exercise as many parents might expect, according to a Kansas State University study.
Dr. Katie Heinrich, associate professor of exercise behavioral science and director of the kinesiology department's Functional Intensity Training Lab, said children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, including bone and muscle strengthening activities. Some parents might think enrolling their children in organized activities or structured sports with hourlong classes or practices would fulfill this need, but research finds they do not.
In a study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences and Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Kansas State University researchers found that between sitting while listening to instructions, standing in line while waiting their turn and other parts of practices, only about 30 percent of practice time is actually spent in moderate to vigorous exercise.
"In an hourlong practice, the children are still getting about a third of the physical activity they need for the day, but it's still a little bit less activity than people would expect," Heinrich said.
Despite not providing the full amount of needed exercise, organized sports are still beneficial because they provide structure, companionship and character-building opportunities, along with some exercise, Heinrich said. To help children get the amount of daily physical activity they need, Heinrich advises parents to make sure children have at least 40 minutes outside of practice to play freely.
Unstructured playtime can include visiting a playground, jumping on a trampoline, playing catch in the yard, hula-hooping or whatever activity the child enjoys most, Heinrich said. Benefits of unstructured play include developing independence, creativity, leadership, collaboration and problem-solving skills. Heinrich said parents can encourage free play by having sports toys -- anything from basketballs to flying discs -- readily available.
"Organized sports are valuable, but free play activities are needed as well," Heinrich said. "It's important to provide children with opportunities for both.”
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