Website Manager

Bloomington-Normal Baseball Association

Bloomington-Normal Baseball Association

News Detail


Feb, 2024

Benefits of Youth Sports!



Sign up for our monthly newsletter


Regular physical activity benefits health in many ways, including helping build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints; helping control weight and reduce fat; and preventing or delaying the development of high blood pressure (GAO, 2012). Exercise is one of the least expensive ways to stay healthy, with one study finding that exercise can prevent chronic diseases as effectively as medication (British Journal of Medicine, 2013). A comprehensive study and analysis of existing research found that leisure-time physical activity is associated with reduced risk of 13 different types of cancer, including breast, colon, liver and myeloid leukemia (National Institutes of Health, 2016).

Sports participation is a significant predictor of young adults' participation in sports and physical fitness activities. Adolescents who play sports are eight times as likely to be active at age 24 as adolescents who do not play sports (Sports Participation as Predictors of Participation in Sports and Physical Fitness Activities in Young Adulthood, Perkins, 2004). Three in four (77%) of adults aged 30+ who play sports today played sports as school-aged children. Only 3% of adults who play sports currently did not play when they were young (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard University/NPR, 2015).

Active communities are healthier. The Aspen Institute examined the top 10 cities (overall ranked) in the 2019 ACSM American Fitness Index to understand the values, capital and financial investments, and environments of a community that invests in sport and recreation. The cities with the highest scores are considered to have a strong community fitness, a concept comparable to individuals having strong personal fitness. See related chart on the results.

Active children are less obese. In a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers analyzed obesity prevention strategies and their ability to reduce obesity by the year 2032. They found afterschool physical activity programs would reduce obesity the most, 1.8% among children ages 6 to 12. That's twice the projected impact as any ban on child-directed fast-food advertising. An earlier study of college students found that "motives for sport participation are more desirable than those for exercise and may facilitate improved adherence to physical activity recommendations" (Kilpatrick, Journal of American College Health, 2005).

But the obesity epidemic continues. Twenty-two percent of children and teens have been classified as obese during the coronavirus pandemic, an “alarming” increase from 19% before COVID-19, according to a 2021 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For severely obese kids, their expected annual weight gain increased from 8.8 pounds before the pandemic to 14.6 pounds in August 2020. Moderately obese kids went from 6.5 pounds to 12 pounds. Even children who had a healthy weight prior to the pandemic saw their annual weight gain increase from 3.4 pounds to 5.4 pounds.

Children of color show higher rates of obesity. In 2018, a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed overweight and obesity rates increased in all age groups among children ages 2 to 19 (Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in U.S. Children, 1999-2016). The rates generally increased with age, with 41.5% of teens being obese by 16 to 19 years old. Of particular concern were continued racial and ethnic disparities. White and Asian children showed significantly lower rates of obesity than Hispanic and Black children. Researchers also found a sharp increase in obesity from 2015 to 2016 compared to the previous cycle among children ages 2 to 5, especially boys. Girls 16 to 19 years old had a notable jump in overweight rates, from 36% in 2013-14 to 48% in 2015-16. Youth who have disabilities are 4.5 times less active and have obesity rates that are 38% higher than other youth (Physical Literacy in the United States: A Model, Strategic Plan, and Call to Action, 2015).


The Aspen Institute’s Healthy Sport Index is a tool that can help parents find the best sport for their child based on health benefits and risks. The resource includes original research that found boys generate more vigorous physical activity at high school practices than girls (North Carolina State University, 2018).


From the Sport for All, Play for Life report. click to enlarge

From the Sport for All, Play for Life report. click to enlarge

Sports activity helps children develop and improve cognitive skills, according to a study that tracked kids from kindergarten through fourth grade (Piche, 2014). Physical activity in general is associated with improved academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores. Further, such activity can affect attitudes and academic behavior, including enhanced concentration, attention, and improved classroom behavior (GAO, 2012). 

High school athletes are more likely than non-athletes to attend college and get degrees, and team captains and most valuable players achieve in school at even higher rates (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2005). Also, high school athletes are more likely to expect to graduate from a four-year college (73% girls, 59% boys) compared to non-athletes (67% girls, 53% boys), according to data collected for the Healthy Sport Index (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2018). A higher percentage of high school athletes also receive A/A- grades than non-athletes (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2018). 

The benefits extend to the workplace. A survey of 400 female corporate executives found 94% played a sport and that 61% say sports contributed to their career success (EY Women Athletes Business Network/espnW, 2014).


Youth connect increased physical activity to better mental health. In our State of Play Tacoma-Pierce County report, children in the Tacoma, Washington area who are physically active reported more excitement, happiness and motivation, and those who are inactive reported greater nervousness, anxiety, worry and depression. For example, 25% of youth who said they had zero days of physical activity per week reported feeling depressed or hopeless nearly every day, more than twice the rate (11%) of those who were active every day. The results also suggested that youth who play an organized sport or physical activity have better mental health, although the differences were minimal compared to any form of physical activity.

A correlation has been found between regular exercise and mental health among students in general as they move into the teenage years. Among students who exercised six to seven days a week, 25.1% felt sad for two weeks or more in the past 12 months, compared to 35.7% of students who reported exercising on zero to one day (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2004). Of students who exercised six to seven days, 15% reported suicidal ideation, and 6.4% reported a suicide attempt in the past year, compared to 24.6% and 10.3% of students who exercised zero to one day, respectively (Journal of American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2015). A 2019 study found that children who reported no exercise were twice as likely to have mental health problems, particularly related to anxiety and depression, compared with those who met the recommendation of an hour a day, and a 2020 study suggested that the more physical activity teenagers participated in, the less likely they were to report depression as 18-year-olds (The New York Times, 2020).

In a recent study of 72 million social media users in the United States, “economic connectedness” – or the friendships our children have with members of a different social class – was the largest single predictor of later life success for kids from less privileged homes. 

According to the United Nations, in its contribution towards peace, sport often provides safe environments at the grassroots and community levels, at which participants are brought together in the pursuit of common goals and interests; learn values of respect, tolerance and fair play; and develop social competencies. As a common denominator and shared passion, sport can build bridges between communities regardless of their cultural differences or political divisions. In times of conflict or instability, sporting activities can provide participants with a sense of normalcy.

click to enlarge

The loss of sports during COVID-19 hurt the mental health of many children. One in four youth sports parents said their child’s mental health suffered, according to a 2021 survey by Project Play and Utah State University. Since restrictions have been lifted on sports, many parents said their child’s mental health improved. A majority of parents also believe their child’s physical fitness, emotional control and social well-being have increased by returning to sports.

Physical activity, and sports in particular, can positively affect aspects of personal development among young people, such as self-esteem, goal-setting, and leadership. However, evidence indicates that the quality of coaching is a key factor in maximizing positive effects (GAO, 2012).

New research from Old Dominion University found that children who are physically inactive are twice as likely to experience mental health problems as those who meet weekly recommendations. And follow-up research from University College London suggests that these effects carry into adulthood.

According to the American Journal of Health Promotion, meaningful daily interactions contribute to lower levels of loneliness, stronger and more durable relationships, and thriving and self-esteem. In fact, science has shown that when adults engage with children, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is associated with trust and relationship building and it counteracts the effects of stress and anxiety, while reducing the likelihood of chronic disease.

Both male and female high school athletes are less likely to smoke cigarettes and suffer from loneliness and low self-esteem, when compared to non-athlete peers, according to research used for the Healthy Sport Index (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2018). High school athletes, though, are more likely to binge drink alcohol, with youth in contact sports (football, lacrosse, wrestling) showing the riskiest off-field behavior.

Different sports have different social and psychological benefits. A 2018 psychosocial survey by the Aspen Institute and University of Texas showed that team sports fared better than individual sports, such as tennis, track and field, and cross country. The study, part of the Healthy Sport Index, evaluated personal and social skills, cognitive skills, goal setting skills, initiative skills, health skills and negative experiences for high school athletes based on their primary sport. There seems to be evidence that more traditional team sports may be structured – or, at least, interpreted by the participants – in a manner that produces more concrete experiences associated with well-being.

Parents appreciate these benefits. Improving physical health was the No. 1 benefit parents gave for engaging their children in organized sports (Hospital for Special Surgery/Aspen Institute, 2018). Improved mental health, fun and enjoyment, promote teamwork and improved self-confidence were the next highest benefits identified by parents. In Southeast Michigan, 82% of parents said it's very important or somewhat important for their child to be regularly involved in sports, according to a 2017 survey by the Siena College Research Institute commissioned by the Aspen Institute. (Read the Southeast Michigan report.) Another survey of parents, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard/NPR survey in 2015, showed the positive traits parents believe playing sports has had for their children: physical health (88%), giving the child something to do (83%), teaching discipline or dedication (81%), teaching how to get along with others (78%), mental health (73%), social life (65%), skills to help in future schooling (56%), and skills to help in a future career (55%).

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

And youth appreciate these health benefits, too. High school students say their biggest motivations to play sports are having fun (81%) and exercise (79%), according to a national survey by Project Play and Resonant Education in 2020-21. Winning games/championships (53%) ranked sixth. Positive emotional well-being (49%) was cited more by students than trying to earn a college scholarship (39%). Learn more from Project Play’s Reimagining School Sports initiative.


Achieving the federal government’s goal for youth sports participation would have significant social and economic benefits – $57 billion in direct medical costs saved and increased productivity of workers alone, plus more than 1.4 million years lived in good health. This is according to results from a 2023 computer simulation model from researchers at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy shows that

Getting people active could save the the global economy nearly $68 billion annually in medical costs and productivity. The U.S. alone could save up to $28 billion. And individuals could find $2,500 or more in their pocket if they move for 30 minutes five times per week (The Lancet Physical Activity Series).


Bloomington-Normal Baseball Association
P.O. Box 3324 
Bloomington, Illinois 61702

Phone: 309-829-2129
Email: [email protected]

Copyright © 2024 Bloomington Normal Baseball Association  |  Privacy Statement |  Terms Of Use |  License Agreement |  Children's Privacy Policy  Log In