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Jeannette Manger


Objective: Physical activity is a major component of overall health, especially in children. Increased physical activity in children provides many health benefits, and organized sports provide a great opportunity to meet the physical activity recommendations. In fact, participation in organized sports provides further health advantages, such as lower BMIs, compared to those who engaged in self organized physical activity and has shown to promote continued healthy habits throughout life. However, there has not been research looking at which sports are associated with the greatest level of fitness and provide the greatest health benefit for participants. In this study, we examine which sports are associated with the greatest levels of physical activity as measured by the plank hold, grip test, pull up, and lower body strength among children in the US.

Methods: This project uses data collected from the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey, a one-time survey that gathered data on physical activity and fitness levels in children and teens in the U.S. in 2012. Our variables of interest were participation in sports, type of sport, plank hold, grip test, pull up, and lower body strength. We analyzed the data using a multivariate regression with plank hold, grip test, pull up, and lower body strength as the dependent variables. We compared each of these dependent variables with the following independent variables: age,gender, participation in baseball, participation in soccer, participation in track and field/running, participation in basketball, participation in football, and participation in gymnastics/cheer.

Results: Results suggests that age and gender are the greatest determinate of physical fitness in all physical exam results. Participation in gymnastics/cheer yielded the greatest effect on physical fitness, with improved results in plank, pull-ups, and leg strength. Both football and soccer participation enhanced outcomes in 2 of 4 physical exams, with football predicting higher fitness levels in pull ups and grip strength, while soccer participation predicted higher fitness levels in plank hold and pull ups. This data helps us understand which sports promote the greatest level of physical fitness and can therefore help determine which sports are most likely to provide the greatest health benefits to participants.