This prospective population-based study of children and adolescents demonstrated that participation in sports could be a way to avoid the known decrease in moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity during childhood and young adulthood.
To document physical activity (PA) during organized youth soccer and baseball/softball practices.
Community sports leagues in San Diego County, California.
Two hundred youth aged 7 to 14 years were recruited from 29 teams in 2 youth sports in middle-income cities with an approximately equal distribution across sports, sex, and age groups.
Youth sports practices.
A sample of players wore accelerometers during practices. Minutes of PA at multiple intensity levels were calculated using established cutoff points. Participants were categorized as meeting or not meeting guidelines of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous PA (MVPA) during practice.
The overall mean for MVPA was 45.1 minutes and 46.1% of practice time. Participants on soccer teams (+13.7 minutes, +10.6% of practice time), boys (+10.7 minutes, +7.8% of practice time), and those aged 7 to 10 years (+7.0 minutes, +5.8% of practice time) had significantly more MVPA than their counterparts. Participants on soccer teams spent an average of 17.0 more minutes and 15.9% more of practice time in vigorous-intensity PA than those on baseball/softball teams. Overall, 24% of participants met the 60-minute PA guideline during practice, but fewer than 10% of 11-to 14-year-olds and 2% of girl softball players met the guideline.
Participation in organized sports does not ensure that youth meet PA recommendations on practice days. The health effects of youth sports could be improved by adopting policies that ensure participants obtain PA during practices.