Sports Benefits for Young People

Participating in youth sports is, for most of us, a regular part of growing up.

Physical activity is essential for healthy and optimal development through childhood and early adulthood; and youth sports provide many opportunities for a physically active routine. Boosting the well-being of kids through this time can also help your community’s future, as children who participate in such activities are better adjusted as they enter adulthood, with plenty of life skills and lessons under their belts.

Youth sports can have many different positive effects. Children and youth between the ages of five and 17 should have a minimum of an hour of “moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily,” with more benefits being found with longer duration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists strong bones and muscles, healthy weight, cardio-respiratory fitness, and a reduction in anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity as some of the benefits of physical activity.

Many young people who pursue sports have a strong self-concept and are very goal driven. These positive qualities can carry over into the classroom. In fact, several studies have found a link between youth sports and academic success. One study found that a large percentage of athletes reported achieving an “A” average in school. Student athletes were far more likely to have strong educational and career goals as well. Most aspire to graduate from both a four-year college and a graduate or professional program.

Participating in sports can help young people develop healthy habits that last a lifetime. Often, young children may experiment with several sports, but focus on one or a few when older. Those that continue with sports recognize that regular practice can help them gain new skills. And more intense training can bring higher levels of performance. This motivation for self-improvement often persists after organized sports participation ends.

Researchers have found that young athletes grow up into active adults. In one long-term study, those who took part in sports between the ages of nine to 18 were five to six times more likely to be active into adulthood. In some case, participating in youth sports just once a week led to a much higher probability of being active adults.

Without question, regular physical activity early in life can lead to a healthier future.


Kalea Sanford is director of The Conquest Fitness Foundation’s Program.