How Childhood Sports Affects Adult Health
When a child gets involved in competitive soccer at a young age, the whole family gets drawn in too. You’ll hear the phrase “investing in the future.” Some will have their sites set on glory for as a future pro player. But there are many other ways childhood sports impact adult success.
Let’s talk about the obvious benefits first:
“Sport provides your kids with an opportunity to get out and exercise. It allows them to build balance and coordination, enhance their social skills, improve their fitness, and develop good lifestyle habits that will keep them in good health for the rest of their lives,” as Forever Fit Kids notes.
Childhood obesity is a real problem in the United States. Research finds under 50% of school children are getting the recommended daily amount of exercise. Among adolescents that number falls below 10 percent. Organized sports help counter that trend.
Meanwhile, physical activity is critically important. It helps “build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints” and can prevent or delay “the development of high blood pressure (GAO, 2012). In fact, “exercise is one of the least expensive ways to stay healthy.” The British Journal of Medicine found “that exercise can prevent chronic diseases as effectively as medication.”
All that’s obviously going to have long-lasting effects on the adult’s physical health.
The young athlete is also less likely to engage in “high-risk health-related behavior.” Both male and female athletes “were more likely to eat fruit and vegetables, and less likely to engage in smoking and illicit drug-taking.” This has positive reverberations through to adulthood as healthy habits are established young.
Engaging in a sport has also been shown to help reduce suicidal thoughts and tendencies. The advantage on adult health is obvious — the athlete reaches adulthood. But the contributing factors — more social support and greater feelings of acceptance — are going to have benefits on mental health throughout life.
Young athletes also demonstrate “improved skills in goal setting, time management, emotional control, leadership, wisdom, social intelligence, cooperation, and self-exploration.” All of which provide a strong foundation going into adulthood.
Not to mention the fact that kids who play sports when they are young are much more likely to become adults who continue to be athletic after age 30. “Three in four (77%) of adults aged 30+ who play sports today played sports as school-aged children.” In the same Harvard University study, “only 3% of adults who play sports currently did not play when they were young.”
Keep it in Perspective
Now, all that said, there can be some drawbacks for young athletes. Injuries can be a problem. Burnout is an issue. Also, dedicating themselves to sport too soon. Those who specialize at a young age, and even see success in the sport, have higher rates of anxiety and depression later in life than those who diversified but met the same levels of success, according to Dr. E. M. Wojtys writing in Sports Health.
The thinking is that their self-worth is so tied up in the sport that they take any failure much more personally. This finding is more common among athletes in individual sports, but still noted with team players.
Diversifying by participating in more than one sport is a good way to avoid this result. Many of Mutiny’s players also take some time to play tennis, swim, skateboard, or do basketball. This helps the athlete build generalized athletic prowess. That doesn’t hurt on the soccer pitch either!
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