Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Organized sports and exercise

This one makes perfect sense, yet it surprised me.

The American College of Sports Medicine recently publicized a study comparing the amount of exercise kids get playing organized sports versus playing on their own (i.e., without direct adult supervision). Want to guess the results?

The kids playing on their own consistently got more physical activity. Reason: There were no timeouts, breaks between innings, substitutions, minutes on the bench, etc.

The study also compared organized and free play for enjoyment and "peer victimization," which I assume simply means the bigger, more athletic kids making life miserable for the ones just struggling to stay with the program. In these categories, the data showed kids enjoying themselves slightly more after organized sports (or "elimination games" as they're called in the study.) No one got picked on in either category, so no results to report on peer victimization.

Again, makes sense, though I wonder how long after these games the researchers spoke to their subjects. Also, whether an effort was made to speak to a representative group of children from both winning and losing teams. Right after games, kids tend to feel these things deeply both ways. A half-hour later, in my experience many kids can't remember who won or lost. As opposed to the coaches and parents.

I've spoken to many people about the pros and cons of free play and organized sports, but the exercise issue has never come up. Anyway, credit where it's due: The researchers are Karla Bruggeman and David Dzewaltowski. Their survey group consisted of 29 children in grades four through six.


Kernel Krunch said...

Can you give me the URL for the ACSM article? That would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Mark Hyman said...

Here goes.