Posted on Jan 06, 2014, 6 a.m.
Men who participated in boys’ team sports in their high school years retain better physical fitness as they age.
Despite continued evidence demonstrating the wide-ranging health benefits of physical activity, most adults see their activity levels decline with age. Brian Wansink, from Cornell University (New York, USA), and colleagues tracked 712 World War II veterans who were healthy as young men (all passed a rigorous physical exam when being screened for military duty), and surveyed them 50 years later at average of 78 years. The researchers found that those men who had played a high school sport in the 1930s or early 1940s, reported visiting their doctor fewer times each year. Indeed, the best predictor of whether a healthy young man would regularly exercise 50 years later was simply whether he had played a team or individual sport in high school. Many of those who played a high school sport were still active compared to those who didn't. Observing that: “the single strongest predictor of later-life physical activity was whether he played a varsity sport in high school, and this was also related to fewer self-reported visits to the doctor,” the study authors conclude that: “Encouraging systematic or frequent physical activity at a young age - whether through school sports or club opportunities - might be the best investment in long-term activeness.”
Simone Dohle, Brian Wansink. “Fit in 50 years: participation in high school sports best predicts one's physical activity after Age 70.” BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1100; 1 December 2013.