Relationship between High School Athletic Participation and Adult Fitness and Metabolic Health
Background: Studies have shown that regular exercise reduces both the burden of diabetes and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The determinants of an active lifestyle are not fully understood.
Objective: The hypothesis of the current study is that athletic participation in high school (HS) would confer health benefits in adulthood in the form of greater fitness and less metabolic risk.
Methods: 372 consecutive outpatients referred for exercise testing were asked to complete a questionnaire that included number of years of HS interscholastic sports participation, smoking status, presence of diabetes, total number of medications taken per day, level of education, amount of exercise they engaged in per week and attendance at a US or foreign HS. Waist circumference, blood pressure, (BP) and body mass index, (BMI) were measured. The Standard Bruce Protocol was utilized to obtain total exercise time and METs.
Results: We found a positive correlation between athletic participation in HS and total exercise time, (454 ± 120 sec. [no sports] vs. 526 ± 122 sec. [4 years of HS sports] p<0.001) and METs (9.9 ± 2.37 vs. 11.11 ± 2.36 p<0.001). Participation in HS sports was also associated with higher reported weekly exercise time, (1.99 hrs ± 2.93 vs. 3.56 ± 3.97 p<0.001). Women were significantly less likely to have participated in HS sports, (among those reporting no HS sports participation, 64 % were women). When using multivariate regressions to control for gender, HS athletic participation still had a statistically significant effect on exercise time, (women: 437
sec ± 114 vs. men: 519 ± 127 p ≤ 0.001), METS (9.67 ± 2.34 vs. 11.0 ± 2.31 p ≤ 0.001), and hours of weekly exercise, (2.02 hrs. ± 3.03 vs. 3.00 ± 3.65 p=0.0053). We could not find any association among HS sports and diabetes, smoking, waist circumference, total medications taken, domestic or foreign HS, BMI or BP.
Conclusion: Our study demonstrates that participation in HS athletics is associated with improved adult lifestyle habits and cardiovascular fitness. Further study is needed to confirm the findings.