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Recreational sports leagues for adults

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Recreational sports leagues provide opportunities for adults to play at beginner, intermediate and competitive levels in many athletic games. Soccer, ultimate frisbee, softball, volleyball, kickball, basketball, and various other sports are offered at differing skill levels to encourage participation regardless of skill. 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased physical activity

Evidence of Effectiveness

Increasing access to recreational sports leagues and their facilities is a suggested strategy to increase adult physical activity (ALBD, US DHHS-Be active, WIPAN-Worksites, WIPAN-Communities). Available evidence suggests that opportunities to participate in recreational sports leagues and use their facilities and equipment are associated with increased participation in physical sport activities (Diez Roux 2007, Wendel-Vos 2007). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Participation rates in organized sport activities are higher among males than females, lower among low income individuals than individuals with higher incomes, and decline with age (Cochrane-Priest 2008a).


United States

Adult recreational sports leagues exist across the country. Sports Monster offers a searchable database of programs in some cities (Sports Monster). Adult sports leagues are often run by non-profit organizations, a local YMCA or JCC (YMCA-Adult sports, JCC-Fitness), or parks and recreation departments (Cape Girardeau-Sports, NRPA-Recreation and health).

Implementation Resources

US DHHS-PAG - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Physical activity guidelines for Americans (PAG). Accessed on November 11, 2017

Citations - Evidence

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design. Accessed on May 17, 2018
Cochrane-Priest 2008a* - Priest N, Armstrong R, Doyle J, Waters E. Interventions implemented through sporting organisations for increasing participation in sport. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008;(3): CD004812. Accessed on December 14, 2015
Diez Roux 2007 - Diez Roux AV, Evenson KR, McGinn AP, et al. Availability of recreational resources and physical activity in adults. American Journal of Public Health. 2007;97(3):493-9. Accessed on January 14, 2016
US DHHS-Be active - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Be active your way: A guide for adults. Accessed on March 3, 2017
Wendel-Vos 2007* - Wendel-Vos W, Droomers M, Kremers S, Brug J, van Lenthe F. Potential environmental determinants of physical activity in adults: a systematic review. Obesity Reviews. 2007;8(5):425–40. Accessed on November 18, 2015
WIPAN-Communities - Wisconsin Partnership for Activity and Nutrition (WIPAN). Active community environments. Accessed on December 30, 2015
WIPAN-Worksites - Wisconsin Nutrition and Physical Activity (WIPAN). What works in worksites. Accessed on November 20, 2017

Citations - Implementation

Cape Girardeau-Sports - City of Cape Girardeau. Sports leagues, locations, events. Accessed on December 1, 2015
JCC-Fitness - Jewish Community Center Association (JCC), Programs and services at JCCs of North America: Health & fitness. Accessed on February 16, 2016
NRPA-Recreation and health - National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Recreation and health. Accessed on May 24, 2016
Sports Monster - Sports Monster. America’s favorite adult recreational leagues. Accessed on May 24, 2016
YMCA-Adult sports - Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Adult team sports. Accessed on November 9, 2015

Page Last Updated

May 26, 2015

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