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Youth Sports & Obesity

by
author image Erica Loop
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.
Youth Sports & Obesity
Spending time on the field instead of in front of the TV can cut your child's risk of obesity. Photo Credit prudkov/iStock/Getty Images

More than one-third of U.S. kids were considered either overweight or obese in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lack of physical education in schools, limited access to safe play spaces and the growing use of electronic media are some contributors to this country-wide epidemic. Youth sports can get kids up and active, and help combat childhood obesity.

Sports and School

If you think that your child is getting an appropriate amount of physical activity during the school day, you may be wrong. Only slightly more than half of students responding to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey attended one or more physical education class per week, according to the CDC. Instead of relying on your child's school for her daily dose of physical activity, community or league youth sports can play a pivotal role in helping kids stay healthy.

A Healthy Alternative

Between TV viewing, Internet use, video games and cell phones, children spend roughly seven hours per day tethered to a electronic device, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even though the AAP recommends that children spend no more than two hours per day in front of a screen, the statistics show that the numbers are much higher. Youth sports offer an alternative to fight the ill-effects -- such as obesity -- of too much screen time. Whether your child plays basketball with the neighborhood kids, joins little league or swims for your community's local club, athletic endeavors can take him away from the video games and cell phone apps and help him to get physically fit.

Choices, Choices

Before you sign your child up for every sport available, weigh the choices with careful consideration. Not every sport is for every child. If your child is already overweight or obese you should check with her doctor prior to picking a sport. Some athletics, such as lacrosse or track, may require speed and stamina that your child may not have right now. This doesn't mean that your child can't eventually play these -- or other -- sports; it means there is a better choice for her current physical condition. Additionally, give your child input when it comes to making the choices. Any child who is invested and interested in the sport may put more into it, maximizing the benefits.

Sporty Statistics

Even though it may seem like every kid in the neighborhood is on the community soccer team or signs up for the school basketball team, this isn't always true. The National YRBS shows that roughly 58 percent of adolescents participated in at least one sports team in the year 2011, according to the CDC. This means that only slightly more than half of the American youth are reaping the benefits of athletics and decreasing the likelihood of obesity. Instead of letting your child become one of the 42 percent who are sitting on the sidelines, encourage him -- especially if he has a weight problem already -- to participate in a sport.

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