Dr. Keith Zullig and Rebecca White from West Virginia University say 12- to 14-year-old adolescents -- at a critical juncture in adolescent development -- gain significant physical and mental health benefits from sports participation.
"Our findings suggest that sports team participation may enhance school connectedness, social support and bonding among friends and teammates," the study authors say in a statement.
The paper, published online in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, finds participation in vigorous activity had no effect on either life satisfaction or self-rated health in boys and on self-rated health in girls. However, playing on a sports team was linked to higher life satisfaction in both boys and girls.
Boys were five times more likely, and girls 30 times more likely, to describe their health as fair/poor when they were not playing on a sports team.
Zullig, White and colleagues had 245 students in grades seven and eight complete questionnaires.