Our Motivation for Active4Youth

Active4Youth All-City Cross Country Meet runners

Despite a perception of sports and recreation programs as expendable or even frivolous, sports programs provide an important mechanism to reach large numbers of children and youth and engage them in healthy and positive activities during non-school hours. Last year, more children and youth chose to take part in sports programs than in any other after-school activity. An estimated 38 million young people participate in youth sports programs in the United States. Sports programs have the potential to promote physical health as well as healthy childhood and youth development.

Sports programs can help address the growing problems of inactivity and obesity among American children and youth. Today, there are nearly twice as many overweight children and almost three times as many overweight adolescents as there were in 1980.

Sports programs can also promote healthy development. Examples abound of successful sports programs that build character, responsibility and leadership skills, help children and youth improve school performance, and nurture relationships with adult mentors.

Girls particularly benefit from playing sports. Research indicates that two hours a week of exercise can substantially lower a teenage girl's lifetime risk of breast cancer, and adolescent girls who exercise regularly can reduce their risk for obesity, coronary heart disease and osteoporosis. Participation in sports is also linked to an increase in self-esteem, positive body image, self-confidence, and sense of competence, as well as a decreased incidence of depression, pregnancy, and smoking.

Yet children and youth in low-income urban areas, particularly girls and minorities, are less likely to participate in sports and recreation programs after school. In the suburbs, rates of participation in sports programs are between 80 and 90%, while rates in urban areas reach only about 10 to 20%. For reasons as varied as insufficient funding, deteriorating facilities and equipment, inadequate transportation, and social or cultural barriers, too many children and youth in low-income urban communities do not have the same opportunities as other young people.

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