Growing up, my brother and I were both very active and our parents very busy. I played soccer, basketball, tennis, and even danced and ice-skated for a while. Meanwhile, my brother also played soccer, basketball, tennis, and dabbled with baseball and track. Needless to say, we were always practicing, playing in a game, or performing, no matter the time of year. I understand that some may frown at this and think that it is too much for children—that we didn’t have time for a life outside of sports, to study, to make friends, to simply be kids. They view it as an unhealthy lifestyle.

Well, research says otherwise. While anyone can certainly overwork themselves or devote too much time to an activity, playing sports is generally great for kids. Not only did I meet some of my best friends at practice after school (ones I still talk to today) and have a blast at all of my games, but I grew up happy and healthy. So as long as your kids aren’t overexerting themselves or crying about hating it, then their chosen sport(s) are absolutely doing them some good! Here are 5 great effects playing sports can have on a child’s health:

1) It promotes regular physical activity.

The most obvious benefit of all—exercise! According to guidelines set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services, kids and adolescents aged 6 and above need at least an hour of physical activity a day. This hour can easily be accomplished by going outside and kicking around a soccer ball or going to softball practice. And typically (even if they’re hesitant or difficult at first) they have fun doing it.

2)It fosters a healthy relationship with exercise for years to come.

Adults who played sports as kids prove to be more active than those who did not participate in sports at a young age. So not only is developing an early appreciation for sports beneficial to children but to their future selves! As they will likely carry this ideation with them throughout their entire lives.

3) It develops and improves motor and cognitive skills.

Sports aren’t just about running around with flailing arms (although that might be how we make our debut). There’s a goal to reach—to score a goal, to stick the landing, to hit the ball—as well as certain skills to learn, such as dribbling or pointing toes. As kids focus on these goals and these abilities, they develop and improve their motor as well as their cognitive skills.

4) It teaches the concept and importance of teamwork.

Kids don’t like to share—it’s a known fact. Especially only children! But they have to learn the importance of cooperation, teamwork, and collaboration eventually. And the easiest, most painless way to do so is through sports. There may be some tears and some bickering along the way—hey that’s my ball! —but kids will come to realize how important working together is. And they’ll carry this lesson with them into the great scheme of life.

5) It helps kids make friends and develop social skills.

Like I said earlier, I made my lifelong friends at some of my first-ever sports practices. Sports expose kids to other kids of the same age group and encourage interaction among them. What typically results are friendships, learned social skills, and, in turn, a happy child. So sign your kid up for whatever sport they’re feeling and just see how it goes! Don’t worry, there’s no fine print that says there’s no out! But, if I might say so, they just might never want to live life without sports again.

*Find the right sport for you child and a place for him or her to play today! Simply visit this website and find a program in your area*

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