The influence of sports on children’s psychological and physical development

We all know how important it is to promote sports to children. Physical activity can prevent obesity and reduce anxiety and stress. The world faces new challenges to preserve and improve people's health. Lifestyle and daily habits are constantly changing, sometimes for the worse. We are facing new pandemics of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, heart and blood vessels disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders. Many of these diseases are caused by a lack of physical activity, but not many preventive programs are in place to change this situation.

Inadequate nutrition is to blame. If mass-media programs, together with amateur sports organizers can work together to raise local awareness, more children and young people would be interested in sports and improve their diets. Scientific research has shown that children who participate in organised sports are generally healthier, have better social skills, and more successful in school.

Civilised society and a society of responsibility

Do we really care about the future of our children? We must act and dedicate ourselves to the development and popularisation of sport. Sport teaches children to strive to win but also to accept defeat. Sport teaches children fair play in the game and in life. Sport helps to develop friendships and creates real human interaction. People who are engaged in sports have healthier eating habits, les smoking, less alcohol consumption and less fatigue. Sports programs help young people to develop their social skills, encourage teamwork and self-discipline. Sport fulfils social lives and leaves them with less negative phenomena leading to less crime. All of this, whether for adults or children, leads to positive approach in life.

World Sports Congress held in Arnhem in 2002 covered the subject of “The Sports Community faces new social challenges such as public health, justice, tolerance and environmental conservation, seeking a sensible response to mass and elite sport.” After this Congress, world organisations, on national and international level started taking serious steps in promoting sports activities to children. Not only through the school system, but through local communities to increase parent awareness. At the moment, the most recent initiative of the World Health Organisation tries to incorporate physical activity into priority tasks. This project’s goal is to counteract the increase of non-communicable diseases both in developed and developing countries. This is a new challenge and a huge opportunity for sports movement as a whole, especially for the availability of sports to everyone. On the local community level, it is necessary to create more active programs for greater inclusion of young people, for a wide variety of sports rather than the popular “money-making’ ones only.

Healthy children study

Physical activity in children affects health and prevents certain risks that may also affect their health as adults. Health experts advised this to reduce children’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future. According to researchers at the Norwegian School of Sports Science in Oslo, each child should, at least, practice a team or individual sport of their choice. Instead of one-day-one-year moderate physical activity, children should practice at least 90 minutes a day, says research manager Lars Bo Andersen. The scientist and his colleagues conducted a research on the impact of exercise on nearly 2,000 children in two age groups of 9 and 15 years - the two ends of adolescence during which many hormonal changes affecting the risk factors for cardiovascular disease occur.

They compared daily exercise time and measured the risk of developing heart disease. Their findings have shown that children with less than 90 minutes of medium intensity exercise (eg walking at 4 km per hour) have a higher risk compared to children with the lowest intensity activity. The risk triples compared with kids who exercise for over 90 minutes.

In 2008, Dr. Luis Sardinha from the Faculty of Engineering in Lisbon, Portugal, did a research and studied the link between physical activity and bone strength on a group of children with an average age of 10. According to his studies, boys and girls need at least 25 minutes of intense exercise per day in order to get stronger bones. Childhood and puberty are the crucial periods for the development of bone mass and strength.

Researchers also suggest a link between asthma and inadequate physical activity. Scientists believe that inactive children do not breathe deeply and regularly enough to help them spread the airways and thus make them less susceptible to asthma. The research at the University of Glasgow revealed that children who spend more time in front of televisions are at greater risk of developing asthma than children who are more active. Children watching more than 2 hours of television have twice as likely to get asthma than children who watch less TV. This is not to conclude asthma is caused directly by TV viewing, but it does reflect the child’s lifestyle as a whole.

It is important to note that a healthy habit of playing sports lasts a lifetime. An active lifestyle helps to prevent excessive weight, spinal problems, high pressure, and many diseases.

Better disciplines

Sport is the ultimate stress buster. Children today are under constant pressure from school, family and their society. Physical effort improves children's concentration and trains their discipline and time management. Children athletes often achieve better success at school, and quite possibly, in life.

Check out also Stefano’s article in Playtimes magazine.


Children who spend hours in front of the TV are more likely to get asthma, by Ian Sample

European Network of Sport Education Participation in sport and physical activity: associations with socio-economic status and geographical remoteness, by Rochelle M. Eime, Melanie J. Charity, Jack T. Harvey, Warren R. Payne, 29 Apr 2015 Physical activity and obesity in children, by Andrew P. Hills, Lars Bo Andersen, Nuala M. Byrne, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2011

Physical activity and clustered cardiovascular risk in children: a cross-sectional study (The European Youth Heart Study

Report from the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace

Sport Scientists - A High Impact Approach

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