Obesity in kids and teens is becoming more and more of an issue with each passing year, but the truth is that making sure your kids get the right amount of exercise and a proper diet is often easier said than done. And there’s always the concern of overscheduling and therefore stressing out your kids. A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that playing three or more team sports dramatically reduces your teen's chances of being obese or overweight, Time.com reports.

For the study, researchers at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire surveyed 1,718 high school students, learning about the kids’ participation in team sports; their physical education, or PE, classes; whether or not they “actively commuted,” meaning they either walked or biked to school each day; their height and weight; and how much time they spent on sedentary activities like watching TV or using the computer.

The researchers were able to glean several interesting points from their survey. One was that PE classes had no impact on a teenager’s likelihood to be overweight or obese. Teens who actively commuted were less likely to be obese, but no less likely to be overweight than teens who didn’t walk or bike to school. The researchers also found that teens who actively participated on three or more sports teams had their likelihood of being overweight reduced by 27 percent and their risk of obesity reduced by 39 percent.

But even playing just one sport seemed to put teens at an advantage, the researchers discovered. Of the teens surveyed, 40 percent of those who didn’t play any sports at all were overweight or obese. Playing one sport reduced that percentage to 31 percent; two sports lowered it to 25 percent; and three or more sports brought it down to 20 percent. When counting just the teens who were obese, researchers found that 21 percent of teens who didn’t play any sports were obese, compared to the 16 percent, 9 percent, and 7 percent of the teens who played one, two, and three or more sports, respectively.

Still, before you go ahead and sign your child up for as many team sports as you can find, you need to make sure that he or she is interested in it and will enjoy it. You also want to make sure to balance these sports with other activities so your child doesn’t end up with a too-full schedule that could lead to burnout.

(Photo from Bend It Like Beckham courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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