Youth sports for obesity prevention!
Sounds like a great strategy right!?
Get the kids moving a little, get them away from the TV, the computer, the video games, the iPads....
less screen time= more play time!
Meeting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day shouldn't be a problem when the kids have sports practice several times a week !
That's NOT what the research is showing....
For 1/2 of the time at sports practice, kids are engaging in only LIGHT or SEDENTARY activities (Nelson, U of MN). This obviously varies by sport and by gender, but the numbers are still strikingly low across the board. Younger kids, especially, have more "coaching time" and less activity time...
I should note, kids in sports ARE more physically active than those who aren't. So that's good...
They may be more active... but what about their NUTRITION!?
The research available on non-elite athletes, shows mixed results on nutritional differences between kids that participate in sports versus kids that don't. Kids in sports do consume more fruits/veggies than kids not in sports....BUT the kids in sports are also consuming more calories, sugary sports drinks, and fast food (Nelson et al 2011, Nelson, U of MN).
Additionally, sports environments promote unhealthy eating behaviors like unnecessary sports drinks, snacks loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates, processed meats, cheese dip (with more ingredients in it than cheese...), chips, pop.... It has become the "social norm" for sporting events to have concession stands filled with candy, chips, and pop (the other irony... we go to sporting events to watch professional athletes be active while we chow-down on processed foods). After practice the team snacks include things like "fruit" (otherwise refereed to as candy when it's in the form of a fruit roll-up), juice drinks (that are loaded with sugar), poptarts (which could have its own blog post.. my college professor would enjoy that), pop, donuts......and weekly trip to fast-food joints to celebrate with the team.
T. Nelson, a professor at the University of Minnesota, did observational studies at 63 basketball tournaments throughout Minnesota. All of the tournaments offered sports drinks and pop. Each tournament's concession stand offered 6 chocolate candy options, 6 chewy candy options. Entrees like hotdogs, burgers, pizza and nachos were offered at 98% of the tournaments. Pastries (cookies and baked goods) were offered at 92% of the venus. Chips and fruits were offered at 81% of venues... and ONLY 10% of the tournaments had vegetables available. ONLY 10%. Additionally, 67% of the venues partnered with outside vendors like Subway, Coldstone Creamery, mini donuts..... The norms that we have created around sports activities are not health promoting. And these foods that parents label as "sometimes treats" are becoming weekly.... if not, DAILY treats.
" Kids in sports are more active."
"They'll burn off the sugar anyways!"
"My kid needs the electrolytes"
"Sports drinks will make my child preform better!"
"They deserved it!"
For most children, caloric intake is exceeding energy burned during sports activities. The sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade) are not necessary for children engaging in general sporting events (these were originally created for pro-football players practicing twice a day).... The original intent of sports drinks has lost its purpose, and now has become the replacement for pop and other sugar sweetened beverages. "But it's a sports drink.... it's good for me" ... to society, the sports drink wears a halo next to it's relative Coke and Pepsi, but they aren't that much different, folks! YOU ARE BUYING INTO #healthwashing .... (Words from The American Academy of Pediatrics on sports drinks: here).
It doesn't sound like we, as a society, have created effective strategies for preventing obesity amongst our youth.
Elite athlete or non-elite athlete, what kind of messages are we teaching kids about physical activity and nutrition?
"I just ran 8 miles... so now I can eat a super size french fry and a McDouble. I deserve it!!"
Can we stop treating food as a REWARD and exercise as a PUNISHMENT?
What your body really deserves and really needs ... is physical activity and WHOLE FOODS, more plants!
YOUR BODY deserves to be nourished properly, so that you can maintain optimal health... and not just for the next time you exercise, but for the rest of YOUR life.
The food we are putting into children before and after sporting events are not health promoting. We are sending the message that "I just worked out, so now I deserve to eat this xyz item.".... but what happens when that item is loaded with artificial EVERYTHING and there is actually no nutritional value to it (besides calories)? All kids should be surrounded in environments that encourage healthier food options. Foods that will ACTUALLY help them preform better, have more energy, and recover faster following intense practices and games.... BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, surrounding children in health promoting environments that will teach them LIFESTYLE skills about healthy eating and physical activity....
SKILLS THAT WILL CARRY WITH THEM THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES!
What do kids really need to be a healthy athlete:
1. WHOLE GRAINS
2. MORE PLANT PROTEIN
3. HEALTHY FATS (olive oil, avocado, nut and nut butters, seeds)
4. FRUITS and VEGETABLES (this does NOT include french fries..)
5. WATER !!!
6. PLENTY OF SLEEP!
For more information about Healthy Youth Sports from the University of Minnesota, check out this link: Healthy Youth Sports. Let's stop #healthwashing today!
In good health,
Cover photo credit: Aurimas