Physical Activity Trends among LGBT Youth

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Regular physical activity offers a host of benefits, such as decreased risk of certain diseases, improved fitness levels, better physical health, cognitive improvements, and psychological health. 

This is true for youth, too. Those who engage in regular sport and exercise generally have better academic outcomes, participate in fewer risky behaviors, and develop healthy habits that they carry into adulthood. 

Despite these benefits, many youth are choosing to eschew sport, and this is especially the case among marginalized populations, such as people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. 

Recently, Marion Doull, of the University of British Columbia, and her colleagues, examined this very issue. 

To do so, they analyzed population data from nearly 100,000 youth in British Columbia, Canada. The researcher team examined participation in a variety of activities, including informal sports without a coach, formal sports with a coach, and dance and exercise. They analyzed the patters over time, from 1998-2013. 

Among all youth, sport participation declined over time. But, that just told part of the story. 

Sexual minority youth were less likely to participate in sport than were heterosexuals. Over time, the gap narrowed for informal sports, such as those without a coach. But in formal sports, such as those played at clubs or high schools with a coach, the gap remained and even widened. 

The researchers noted that “despite changing societal attitudes and laudable efforts to reduce homophobia in sports, results suggest that there are continued barriers to participation for sexual minority youth.”

Programs that address the specific needs of LGBT youth, varied sport offerings, and training for coaches and educators all might prove helpful in curbing this trend.