2010-2011 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Many American children participate in organized youth sports. Youth sports engage students in regular physical activity, promote team-building skills, and improve self-esteem. For children who excel at their sport, training for that sport is often necessary. Choices of what to eat and how to become physically fit can be influenced by a variety of factors, including a coach, teammate, or the desire to improve within his or herself. In organized sports, the number of participants drops dramatically when students enter college. Many students who ate healthy and trained for sports in high school no longer have those sports to play in college. To evaluate the effects of sports participation on college students, a survey was administered to 253 students at the University of Kentucky. Sixty-eight percent of subjects were female and the average age of all participants was 20 +/- 1.6 yrs. The participant's average body mass index (BMI) was significantly lower (p<0.001) in high school (21.934 +/- 4.188 kg/m2) compared to college (22.963 +/- 4.004 kg/m2). Of the 253 participants, 80.65% played a sport in high school. Only 8% of these high school athletes continued playing a sport in college. High school athletes who no longer play a sport in college need to be aware that a reduction in physical activity from high school, and food intake changes, often results in unwanted weight gain and other risk factors for chronic disease. These individuals should be encouraged to engage in intramural or club sports to promote optimal health.