Recreational sports leagues for adults

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 (Rated)

  • 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, ). 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 ().

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

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).

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

WIPAN-Worksites - Wisconsin Nutrition and Physical Activity (WIPAN). What works in worksites.

ALBD - Active Living by Design (ALBD). Increasing physical activity and healthy eating through community design.

WIPAN-Communities - Wisconsin Partnership for Activity and Nutrition (WIPAN). Active community environments.

US DHHS-Be active - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Be active your way: A guide for adults.

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.

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.

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.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Sports Monster - Sports Monster. America’s favorite adult recreational leagues.

YMCA-Adult sports - Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Adult team sports.

NRPA-Recreation and health - National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Recreation and health.

Cape Girardeau-Sports - City of Cape Girardeau. Sports leagues, locations, events.

JCC-Fitness - Jewish Community Center Association (JCC), DiscoverJCC.com. Programs and services at JCCs of North America: Health & fitness.

Date Last Updated

May 26, 2015