Health- Related Benefits of Sports Participation – June 2001


June 2001

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the results of a study indicating sports participation has health-related benefits beyond those of being physically fit. The CDC studied a representative sample of more than 14,000 high school students, from three different ethnic groups, across the United States and found sport participants have better health habits than non-sport participants. The study was conducted by exploring the relationships between the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and sport versus non-sport participants. According to the CDC, “Because sports participation typically involves substantial amounts of physical activity, the health benefits of regular exercise would be expected to accrue in young athletes. Also, because team rules and guidelines often promote health-enhancing behaviors, such as proper nutrition and avoidance of cigarette smoking, sports participation might promote healthy lifestyles via social pathways.”

Approximately 70% of the male students and 53% of the female students in this nationwide study reported participating in one or more high school sports. In general, the study concluded sports participants were more likely to eat more healthfully and less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, use illicit drugs, engage in sexual activity, and engage in violent activities than non-sports participants. Out of the 27 items used for this study, there were only four areas where sports participants reported in a slightly higher incidence of negative health-related behaviors. Both male and female sports participants reported a slightly higher incidence of binge drinking than non-sports participants, but lower overall alcohol use. Male sports participants reported a slightly higher incidence of eating fatty foods and use of smokeless tobacco. Female sports participants reported a slightly higher incidence of trying to lose weight than non-sports participants.

The CDC states, “. . . sports participation is associated with multiple positive health behaviors. This trend is most striking for white females and white males, among whom sports participation was significantly associated with numerous positive health behaviors and almost no negative health behaviors.”

Reprints of the entire article which appeared in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine can be obtained by contacting Russell R. Pate, PhD, Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, 29208. E-mail: <[email protected]>