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Study finds teens who play two sports show notably lower obesity rates

Numerous studies report troublesome statistics about Americans' sub-standard fitness levels, budget cuts to physical education and climbing cases of obesity. Each time such news breaks, I panic a little and plan to move more in the interstitial times of day - yoga before work, a walk at lunch or abs with 30 Rock. I also try to think of subtle ways to build physical activity into the routines of my young nieces and nephews.

But my fears about America's growing waistlines tapered when I came across a Booster Shots entry today discussing findings on exercise and obesity. The recent paper, published in the journal Pediatrics, determined that if every high schooler became a two-sport athlete, obesity rates in their demographic would decrease by 26 percent. More easily applied, a 22 percent decrease in obesity would follow if every teen walked or biked to school at least four days a week.

Where are we now? Booster Shots reports:

The researchers from various institutions in New York and New England surveyed 1,718 teenagers and their parents in Vermont and New Hampshire from 2002 to 2009. Twenty-nine percent of the students were overweight to obese, and 13% were obese.

Walking or biking to school, the researchers said, needs more study; they found some association with obesity but not necessarily to being overweight. Only 10.2% of the students they surveyed walked or biked to school more than 3.5 days a week.


Almost three-quarters of the teenagers in the survey played on sports teams, with almost 54% on two or three teams. Nationwide, 60.3% of high school students play sports, and 34.2% are overweight.

At Stanford, researchers including Thomas Robinson, MD, MPH, are exploring ways to curb childhood obesity. In a previous Scope Q&A, Robinson discussed a pediatric weight-control program he devised that motivates children through culturally specific dance classes, team sports and pollution-free transportation.

Previously: Questioning the use of video games to get kids more activeHow physical activity influences health and Stanford pediatrician discusses developing effective programs to curtail childhood obesity
Photo by Noize Photography

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