Organized physical activity in young school children and subsequent 4-year change in body mass index

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012 Aug;166(8):713-8. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.20.


Objective: To determine whether participation in organized outdoor team sports and structured indoor nonschool activity programs in kindergarten and first grade predicted subsequent 4-year change in body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) during the adiposity rebound period of childhood.

Design: Longitudinal cohort study.

Setting: Forty-five schools in 13 communities across Southern California.

Participants: Largely Hispanic and non-Hispanic white children (N = 4550) with a mean (SD) age at study entry of 6.60 (0.65) years.

Main exposures: Parents completed questionnaires assessing physical activity, demographic characteristics, and other relevant covariates at baseline. Data on built and social environmental variables were linked to the neighborhood around children's homes using geographical information systems.

Main outcome measures: Each child's height and weight were measured annually during 4 years of follow-up.

Results: After adjusting for several confounders, BMI increased at a rate 0.05 unit/year slower for children who participated in outdoor organized team sports at least twice per week compared with children who did not. For participation in each additional indoor nonschool structured activity class, lesson, and program, BMI increased at a rate 0.05 unit/year slower, and the attained BMI level at age 10 years was 0.48 units lower.

Conclusion: Engagement in organized sports and activity programs as early as kindergarten and the first grade may result in smaller increases in BMI during the adiposity rebound period of childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight
  • California
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Schools
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires