Sports And Child Development

(Adapted from UNICEF)

…with inputs from Dr. Bharat Inder Singh, Head, Sports Medicine, Fortis Hosptal, Vasant Kunj, N Delhi

Regular physical activity and play are essential for good physical, mental, psychological and social development. Good habits start early and children who are physically more active are more likely to stay active as adults.

Sports, recreation and play have the potential to:

  • Strengthen the body and prevents disease. Builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles and joints. Helps control body weight, reduce fat and controls blood pressure.
  • Prepares infants for future learning. It has scientifically been found that 3 year olds in programs for sports, recreation and play, performed significantly better in a range of measures of cognitive, language and social-emotional development than a randomly assigned control group.
  • In a study it was confirmed that physical activity reduced the symptoms of stress and depression in children aged 8 to12years. Another study revealed that high school athletes were less likely to be depressed and less likely to consider suicide than non-athletes.
  • Improves self-esteem and confidence. Studies have shown that children in organized sports programs reported higher over all self-esteem and were judged by teachers to be more socially skilled and less shy.
  • Improves learning and academic performance. Studies have revealed that those in organized physical activity of 5 hours per week showed significant improvement in academic performance as compared to those receiving 40 minutes per week.
  • Prevents smoking and use of illicit drugs. A large scale study of over 16,000 schools has revealed that athletes were less likely than non athletes to have ever smoked regularly or to have used marijuana, or other drugs.
  • Reduces crime. The causes of crime are multidimensional. Sports may have an indirect effect on criminal activity by encouraging challenge and adventure, promoting positive use of leisure time, providing role models in sports icons and coaches and by giving young people a sense of purpose.
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