OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prospective association of organized leisure-time sports participation with cardiovascular risk in children.
METHODS: Students were recruited from 10 public primary schools. From July 2009 to October 2010, parents reported children's weekly organized leisure-time sports participation via text messaging. Clustered cardiovascular risk was estimated with a composite score comprising fasting serum triglyceride levels, homeostasis assessment model-estimated insulin resistance, total to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio, and systolic blood pressure. Additional outcomes were body mass index categories and fasting serum insulin and glucose concentrations. Associations were explored with generalized estimating equations and reported with beta coefficients (β) and percent difference per weekly sports session or incidence rate ratios. All models were adjusted for baseline values and other potential confounders.
RESULTS: In total, 1197 children (53% female) with a mean age of 8.4±1.4 years were included. Participating in sports for 53 weeks was associated with lower clustered cardiovascular risk (β, -0.25; 95% CI, -0.41 to -0.10; percent difference, 3.2%; 95% CI, 5.2%-1.3%). Similar outcomes were observed for log homeostasis assessment model-estimated insulin resistance (β, -0.08; 95% CI, -0.12 to -0.04; percent difference, 3.4%; 5.1%-1.7%) and log insulin (β, -0.07; 95% CI, -0.11 to -0.04; percent difference, 2.6%; 95% CI, 4.0%-1.5%). Sports participation was associated with a 20% decreased risk of overweight/obesity (incidence rate ratio, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.64-0.96).
CONCLUSION: Participating in organized leisure-time sports for approximately 1 year is associated with decreased clustered cardiovascular risk in children. These findings show that participating in youth sports may be an effective strategy to reduce cardiovascular risk in children.