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How sports can get children outside

According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, about half of preschool-age children aren't getting enough outdoor play time. The research shows that parents and childcare providers can do more to encourage activity in children.

The study
Researchers analyzed data on nearly 9,000 children that was collected for a previous study. Findings showed that 44 percent of mothers and 24 percent of fathers took their kids outside at least once per day. Of children who were not in daycare, 58 percent reported that they went outside daily. There were several factors that seemed to influence the amount of time a child spent outside. The child's gender, having more regular playmates, mother's employment and parents' exercise frequency altered the odds of going outside. 

The study found that girls tended to have less time outside than boys. 

"This study highlights something we already know from other studies, which is that girls in particular seem to have fewer opportunities for outdoor play than boys," Dr. Pooja Tandon, the study's lead author, told U.S. News. "We have to try to support girls in the same way we encourage boys to be active and to play outdoors."

Researchers suggest that pediatricians actively encourage parents to ensure their children are going outside, especially since outside play is strongly tied to physical activity.

Outdoor play
One way to involve children in outdoor activity is through sports. In an interview with Marianne Engle, Ph.D., sports psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University Child Study Center, she emphasized the importance of physical activity for children by explaining the dangers of inactivity

"Physical inactivity exacts a huge toll. It was estimated to cause 1.9 million deaths worldwide in 2000, and 10 to 16 percent of cases each of breast cancer, colon cancer and diabetes," she told the Child Study Center. 

Children have a lot to gain from being physically active. Sports in particular reduce anxiety and depression and enhances self-esteem. Team sports offer children an opportunity to learn about social interaction, teamwork, and winning and losing. 

Sports can be a way increase the number of preschool children who go outside to play. However, young children should be engaged in organized activities that involve exploration and the building of simple motor skills. Many local park districts offer programs geared toward young kids. 

As children age, they can engage in team-based sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball and football. Practices and games are a wonderful way to get kids outside. However, as these activities do not occur everyday, parents should still be proactive in taking their children out of doors. 

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