Playing Team Sports Can Reduce Teen Obesity by ~25 Percent

Walking or biking to school at least four days a week may also reduce obesity

MONDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- High school students who play at least two team sports or walk or bike to school several days a week are less likely to be obese, according to a study published online July 16 in Pediatrics.

Keith M. Drake, from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues conducted telephone interviews with 1,718 high school students and their parents regarding demographics, diet quality, screen time, and physical activity.

The researchers found that 29 percent of students were overweight or obese and 13 percent were obese. Participation in more than two sports teams compared with none was associated with a lower risk of overweight or obesity (relative risk, 0.73) and obesity (relative risk, 0.61), after adjustments. Active commuting to school (walking or riding a bike) more than 3.5 days a week compared with none was also associated with a lower risk of obesity (relative risk, 0.67). The authors estimated that the prevalence of obesity could decrease by 26.1 percent if students played on two sports teams per year and by 22.1 percent if students actively commuted to school at least four days a week.

"Team sport participation had the strongest and most consistent inverse association with weight status," Drake and colleagues conclude. "Active commuting to school may reduce the risk of obesity, but not necessarily overweight, and should be studied further."

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