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Is sport enough? Contribution of sport to overall moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity among adolescents

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© 2019 Objectives: This study examined the contribution of sports participation to overall moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among adolescents, and explored potential moderators. Design: Cross-sectional observational study using survey and accelerometry data drawn from the NEighbourhood Activity in Youth (NEArbY) study. Methods: Adolescents (n = 358) were recruited from secondary schools in Melbourne, Australia. Average min/day in MVPA was assessed using accelerometry. Participants self-reported sports participation (number of teams, type, frequency, and months of participation). Regression models determined the percent variance in MVPA explained by the sport variables, adjusted for wear time, age and sex, and accounting for clustering at the school level. Additional analyses tested if age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and socioeconomic status (SES) moderated relationships between sport variables and MVPA. Results: Participants (mean 15.3 years, 59% female) spent a mean (SD) of 68.6 (27.4) min/day in MVPA and 50% reported participating in any sport. Those who participated in sport did so 3.4 times/week on average and accumulated 7 min/day of MVPA more than those who did no sport. For each additional sport participated in, on average, there were approximately 5 additional min/day of MVPA. The number and frequency of sports participation explained 3.2% and 3.8% of the variance in MVPA respectively. Participation in field hockey and gymnastics explained 2.2% and 3.6% of the variance in MVPA, respectively. There were no moderating effects. Conclusions: Sport appears to make a very small contribution to adolescents’ average daily physical activity. Effectiveness of approaches to increasing youth population levels of physical activity via sports participation needs to be tested.



Journal of science and medicine in sport




Amsterdam, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, Elsevier