Being active is essential for your health and fitness, and playing sports is one of the best ways to do so. Whether it's a casual weekend league, gym workout session, or highly competitive sports - participation in sports can make a major positive impact on health in adulthood.
But this also applies to kids—maybe even more so. Being active in youth sports comes with so many health benefits for children.
Taking up sports at a young age gives kids an outlet for their excess energy. But it also works out their growing frame to make sure they develop into happy, healthy adults down the line.
Youth sports can have many positive health effects - like improved circulation, developing muscle, and building stronger bones. Team sports also gets kids out of the house, and away from the electronic devices that rule all of our lives these days.
Whether your child is going to go pro or not, there’s no time like the present to start setting healthy fitness habits! Participating in youth sports at an early age brings health benefits that last a lifetime.
Youth Sports Activity Can Benefit Heart Health and Lung Function
Yes, regular exercise is a long-term health endeavor. But you’d probably be surprised to know that even a single bout of physical activity offers immediate defenses against heart disease!
The scientific term is “ischemic preconditioning”: basically, every exercise engagement trains your heart and arteries to function better in daily life. That means every bike, run, jump, skip, and swim trains your body to fire on all cylinders all day long. Considering how most heart disease is on account of heart muscle or artery failure, it makes sense to do this preconditioning as early and as much as possible!
The thinking is somewhat similar with the lungs. Cardio activity naturally forces you to learn breath control and also works out the lungs. Increased activity causes your lungs to put in more work, in order to move more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide out. In the same way, physical activity trains your heart, it also strengthens your lung capacity in the long run.
Sports that require sustained cardio - like Track & Field, Cross Country, Hockey, Basketball, Soccer, Lacrosse, and Tennis - are particularly effective at building healthy lungs.
Participating in Youth Sports Can Help with Childhood (and Adult) Obesity
One of the most obvious health benefits of being active in youth sports is weight regulation. While it’s always a thorny topic, the reality is that it’s easier to prevent chronic conditions associated with obesity and being overweight than it is to reverse them down the line.
The Harvard School of Public Health and other organizations recommend that for good health, adults should aim for at least one hour of physical activity a day. And children, they say, should get even more! Youth sports programs are a fun and engaging way to accomplish this. In fact, the World Health Organization, United Nations, and the International Olympic Committee all acknowledge the importance organized sports plays in reducing the worldwide burden of childhood and adolescent obesity.
A steady, healthy weight also impacts a number of other bodily functions. For example, keeping a consistent and healthy weight improves circulation, boosts energy and helps combat depression and anxiety. Many chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis have roots in sustained weight issues. Maintaining a healthy weight in childhood decreases risks for these conditions later in life.
Being active in a youth sports league helps ensure these goals are reached—and maintained—in a fun, social atmosphere! Kids can stay healthy and on track while also getting the chance to escape the routines of the school day, build nutrition habits, and meet new friends in the community.
Getting kids involved in sports at a young age can begin to build healthy habits that can last into adulthood.
Sports Activity Can Improve Blood Circulation
If exercise helps work out the heart, then it makes sense that it helps the rest of the heart’s system too. The circulatory system pumps oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, via arteries, veins, and capillaries. And it also loves a bit of cardio activity!
Regular exercise helps to keep your circulatory system flowing clean and clear. Considering how most heart diseases, blood pressure issues, and strokes are caused by weak circulation or crowded arteries, any strengthening helps! Similar to preconditioning, any amount of exercise helps. But continued, regular physical activity compounds those effects for the long term. Increased blood flow also helps with heat regulation, and can even speed up healing times on wounds and illnesses!
Given what we know about the effects of exercise on the circulatory system, it makes sense to train it as early as possible. Youth sports participation can build life habits that help reach the max potential of these health benefits.
Youth Sports Strengthens Muscles and Bones
Osteoporosis—when bones become brittle over time, in old age—is something that affects us all. It’s an inevitability, to some degree. But the work you do in your youth when bones are still developing can dictate the extent to which your bones deteriorate over time.
Regular exercise, especially in youth (when bones are still developing), strengthens your skeleton. Youth sports participation has long-term positive effects as the exercise causes the bone to adapt, building more bone and becoming denser. The more resilient you make your bones in your early years, the less density you’ll lose later in life.
The same goes for muscles! With bones and muscles alike, it’s “use it or you’ll lose it.” While muscle mass is easier to build later in life than bone density, exercise in youth has an added function. Your muscles are what hold the body together and guide you through life. A limber, powerful muscle system makes sure your kids develop healthily, and helps prevent injury! Strong muscles and bones also improve balance and coordination.
Building Healthy Long Term Habits through Youth Sports
This list isn’t the end! There are all sorts of other health benefits that come with participating in youth sports. Sports help develop motor skills and cognitive thinking, which are both as important in the classroom as on the field.
Sports is also great for social health, as it develops friendship and community, and combats depression and anxiety. All of these are critical for your kid’s development. Starting kids in sports at a young age is a great way to introduce healthy habits that can last into their adult years.