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Playing sports is something most everyone has done, whether recreationally or for a team, young or old. And while some may agree that it’s more enjoyable to watch sports instead, wherever on the spectrum you lie, I’m sure you’ve heard your parents or teachers tell you, “Playing sports is good for you.” Well, researchers at the University of Exeter explored that saying on a deeper level by analyzing the benefits of male bone development from playing soccer.

Dr. Gracia Marco and her researchers conducted a year-long study of 116 boys ranging from ages 12 to 14. There were three treatment groups, all of whom actively participated in either swimming, cycling, or soccer. There was also a control group of kids who did not regularly play sports. The scientists measured the bone mineral content (BMC), a measurement that tells you how healthy your bone is, of the subjects’ lower back and upper leg because these two areas are the most prone to fractures and osteoporosis. Dr. Marco discovered that after one year of playing these sports, soccer players’ BMC were 7% higher for the lower back and 5% higher for the upper leg. This meant that the soccer group had higher bone growth, while the swimming, cycling, and control groups showed no significant differences in BMC measurements.

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​​​​Playing soccer can contribute to bone growth in young kids. Source: Thomas Barwick

Marco and her team attribute these results to the fact that soccer is more weight bearing because players are on their feet more. This is in contrast to swimming and cycling, where the athletes’ feet do not support the majority of their weight. Although their study did not include more than those three sports, Marco suspects that other similar weight-bearing sports like basketball, tennis, and football can also improve bone development.

The findings of this study show that it’s important to actively engage in sports and exercise as an adolescent, which is a critical period for bone growth. Poor development at a young age can affect people down the line and lead to increased risk of fractures or osteoporosis. Choosing which sports to play is also important. It’s not to say swimming and cycling have no health benefits, but that other sports, like soccer and basketball, offer different benefits. So, whichever sports you choose, it’s all about striking a healthy balance.

Feature Image Source: :”right foot”. August, 2014.bysergiok

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