On the lifestyle of Polish chess players

2/17/2009 – "Chess players are the special group of sportsmen whose training and participation in tournaments do not demand high-intensity muscle effort," say these two scientists from Warsaw University. "Sedentary lifestyle and improper eating may provoke the development of various diseases, especially overweight and obesity and reduce sport results." Interesting study, applies to all.

The following study was sent to us by Agnieszka Fornal-Urban, a scientist at the University of Physical Education in Warsaw. She started her research work of the chess players population in 2004, the project was supported by her University and the European Chess Union. The data collected helped evaluate the physical fitness, body composition and psychological abilities of young Polish chess players. It is the first to focus on chess players aged 10 to 20 years and can be used as a comparison between chess players and Polish boys and girls who don’t practice any sport discipline. In February Agnieszka presented some results of her project during the International science-practical conference “Chess within the system of education in Russia and in the world” under the aegis of World Chess Federation. The conference took place at Russian State Social University (RSSU) during the first days of the Moscow Open 2009 (1-3 February 2009).

Selected elements of young Polish chess players' lifestyle

By Agnieszka Fornal-Urban, Anna Kęska

The study is supported by the University of Physical Education in Warsaw and European Chess Union

Introduction

Appropriate nutrition and physical activity are important factors which have crucial influence on growing and health maintenance in adults. Numerous studies have proved the strong relationship between athletes’ dietary patterns and their physical fitness.

Chess players are the special group of sportsmen whose training programme and participation in tournaments do not demand high-intensity muscle effort. Sedentary lifestyle and improper eating of chess players may provoke the development of various diseases, especially overweight and obesity and reduce sport results.

However, little is known about attitudes and behaviours toward diet and physical activity among chess players. Therefore such a study is extremely important among youth population.

The aim

The main purpose of conducted study was to assess selected elements of lifestyle including physical activity and the dietary behaviours in young persons practising chess.

Material

A sample of 75 individuals (36 girls – 48.0% and 39 boys – 52.0%) aged 8-19 years took part in this study. Participants were recruited from the Chess Academy belonging to the Polish Chess Federation. Among them were medallists of European and world championships, medallists of Polish boys and girls championships and members of national team.

All young athletes were divided into four groups:

  •  Group I (n=20) – persons aged 8 – 10 years
  •  Group II (n=31) – persons aged 11 – 13 years
  •  Group III (n=14) – persons aged 14 – 16 years
  •  Group IV (n=10) – persons aged 17 – 19 years

Tables 1 and 2 contain sports and anthropometric characteristics of young chess players.

Table 1. Characteristics of sports level and training of studied chess players

Feature
Total (n=75)
x±SD

Training duration (years)

6.3±2.4

Number of hours of training per week

11.5±6.4

Number of tournaments during school year

16.6±16.3

Number of tournaments during holiday

5,1±3.1

Team camps during the year

3.0±2.1

Using computer in training

60(80.0%)

Number of training hours with the use of computer per week

Total (n=60)
5.4±2.1

Table 2. Anthropometric characteristics of chess players

Parameters

Group I
(n=20)

Group II
(n=31)

Group III
(n=14)

Group IV
(n=10)

Age (years)

9.6±0.7

12.0±0.8

15.0±1.0

17.9±0.6

Height (cm)

142.0±1.7

157.2±8.7

168.8±8.7

180.4±10.9

Weight (kg)

34.2±9.8

48.9±10.9

56.7±10.7

72.2±11.8

BMI (kg/m2)

16.7±2.3

19.6±3.0

19.8±3.0

22.0±2.0

Methods

The study was carried out during the Chess Academy sessions in the years 2004-2008. Competitors were asked to fill in the questionnaire related to their eating habits and physical activity. Furthermore information concerning their age, place of living, sport achievements, lifestyle were collected as well.

Results

It was observed that young chess players showed a lot of unhealthy eating practices, for example low frequency of meals per day, missing breakfast, irregularity of meals, low vegetables, fruits and milk intake. Furthermore, studied boys and girls declared high consumption of sweets and fried food.

It is worth knowing that numerous bad dietary habits were characteristic particularly for the youngest chess players, aged 8-10 years (Group I).

Additionally, it was noticed that the percentage of normal weight competitors was decreasing with age (Groups I-III).

At home recommended number of 4-5 meals per day was consumed only by 54.7% persons. Significant percentage of boys and girls (40.0%) consumed 3 meals daily. It is worth to notice that this nutritional practice were mostly popular among the youngest chess players from Group I (Fig. 1).  On the other hand, during tournaments the highest percentage of competitors confirmed intake of 3 meals per day. This nutritional practice of chess players is observed because meals are usually provided by the organizers.


Fig. 1. Intake frequency of 4-5 meals per day at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

Less than half of subjects declared regular meals intake during the day, from 25.0% to 42.9% (Fig. 2). During tournaments all meals are served by organizers at the same time therefore huge number of chess players in each group (Group I – 16 persons, Group II – 23 persons, Group III – 12 persons, Group IV – 8 persons) confirmed regular meals intake.


Fig. 2. Regularity of meals consumption at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

Another observed disadvantageous nutritional habit among responders was missing first breakfasts (75.0%), especially during competitions. Comparison between groups showed that breakfast was the most seldom eaten by the youngest chess players at home – 30.0% and during competitions by persons from Group III – 14.3% (Fig. 3).


Fig. 3. Intake frequency of breakfast at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

Moreover it was observed, that 13.3% chess players ate vegetables and fruits only one time per day. At home this kind of food was the most frequent consumed in 3-4 meals per day in Groups I and II (respectively 35.0% and 51.6%) and in 2 meals in Groups III and IV (respectively 42.9% and 70.0%). Fig. 4 demonstrates all results. Additionally it is worth to notice that 13.3% all boys and girls confirmed vegetables and fruits intake only in once daily.

During tournaments the frequency vegetables and fruits intake by participants was lower. It was presented on Fig. 4 that among studied groups dominated the consumption of these products in two or one meal per day. Such a  frequency was the most declared by persons from Group I (75.0%), and the most seldom by responders from Group IV (60.0%).


Fig. 4.  Intake frequency of vegetables and fruits at least in three meals per day at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

At home chess players in general consumed milk and cheese the most often in two meals (38.7%). The similar percentage of studied persons (respectively 25.3% and 26.7%) included these products in 3-4 meals or only in one meal per day.

During events Polish competitors more seldom eat dairy products because 36.0% of them declared their intake just only in one meal, and 12.0%  didn’t consume them every day.

Intake frequency of milk and dairy products at least in 3 meals per day at home and during tournaments in all groups is presented on Fig. 5.


Fig. 5. Intake frequency of milk and dairy products at least in 3 meals per day at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

Products reach in animal protein (meat, fish and eggs), with the exception of persons from Group I, were consumed at home the most frequent in 3-4 or 2 meals per day (respectively in Group II – 74.2%, in Group III – 71.4% and in Group IV – 70.0%). However, the frequency of these products intake among the youngest chess players  was 40.0% in 2 meals and 25.0% in one meal.

Conducted studies proved the lower frequency meat, fish and eggs intake during tournaments among chess players from Groups I and II.  45.0% boys and girls of Group I declared consumption of mentioned above products in only one meal per day. In Group II the highest percentage i.e. 38.7% composed of persons who included products reach in animal protein in 2 meals per day. Both in Groups III and IV responders ate the most often these products in 3 or 4 meals per day, respectively 50.0% and 70.0%. Intake frequency of meat, fish and eggs at least in 3 meals per day at home and during tournaments in all groups is presented on Fig. 6.

Fig. 6. Intake frequency of meat, fish and eggs at least in three meals per day at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups


Fig. 7. Intake frequency of sweets at least in one meal per day among chess players at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

Sweets were taken at least one time per day by over 50.0% all participants. At home 21.5% persons ingested sweets several times per day, mostly from Group I (35.0%) and Group III (28.6%). The highest percentage of chess players eating sweets once per day belonged to Group IV (50.0%) and Group II (38.7%). It is worth to remark that hardly, only 10.7% participants of the study do not consume these products at all.

During tournaments intake frequency of sweets was increasing in all groups (Fig. 7). Just only 6.7% chess players in general denied that they ate those products. The most frequent studied persons (77.3%) intake sweets one time or several times per day, respectively in Group III – 85.8%, in Group I and IV – 80.0% each and in Group II – 70.9%.


Fig. 8. Intake frequency of fried food – comparison between groups

The studied boys and girls declared intake of fried food in 1-3 meals per week (48.0%) or 4-6 times per week (25.3%).  Only 2.6% persons don’t consume this kind of food at all. On Fig. 8 is demonstrated intake frequency of fried food in all groups.

Changes in dietary patterns at home and during tournaments were observed by 80.0% all studied persons. Outcomes in each group are illustrated on Fig. 9.

Those changes regarded the most to  quality of meals (53.3%), quantity of food (42.7%) and number of meals (29.3%). Results in particular group were presented on Fig.10.


Fig. 9. Differences in  dietary patterns at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups


Fig. 10. Changes in dietary patterns at home and during tournaments – comparison between groups

Almost all the chess players (98.7%) declared additional physical activity. The most popular forms of physical activities among young competitors were: riding bicycle, swimming, team games and walking (Tab. 3).

Table 3. The most popular kinds of physical activities in chess players – comparison between groups

Physical activities

Group I
(n=20)

Group II
(n=31)

Group III
(n=14)

Group IV
(n=10)

Gymnastics

35.0%

16.1%

21.4%

20.0%

Swimming

50.0%

48.4%

50.0%

40.0%

Walking

30.0%

41.8%

78.5%

70.0%

Riding bicycle

55.0%

77.4%

64.3%

50.0%

Jogging

10.0%

9.7%

14.3%

40.0%

Team games

55.0%

71.0%

85.7%

60.0%

In the opinion of 47.1% of chess players they lead moderately active lifestyle in comparison with boys and girls at the same age and 36.4% – very active. Only 1.3% participants estimated  their lifestyle as not active enough (Fig. 11).


Fig. 11. Self evaluation of physical activity – comparison between groups

On the basis of the conducted study it was noticed that in all groups the highest percentage of chess players spent their leisure time using computer or watching TV (Tab.4).

Table 4. Kinds of activities during leisure time among chess players  – comparison between groups

Activities

Group I
(n=20)

Group II
(n=31)

Group III
(n=14)

Group IV
(n=10)

Computer

85.0%

74.2%

92.9%

100.0%

TV

75.0%

67.7%

92.9%

100.0%

Books

70.0%

58.1%

85.7%

90.0%

Hobby

45.0%

64.5%

71.4%

40.0%

Specificity of chess which is connected with long hours and static training limits possibilities of boys and girls participation in physical activity in their free time. Furthermore, participation in numerous, often several days’ tournaments is related with missing their PE lessons at school. 

Conclusions

  1. Chess players make many nutritional mistakes, particularly during tournaments. It was observed that the youngest athletes aged 8-10 years have the worst diet. Probably it is connected with parents absence on competitions and lack of their protection and control.

  2. Similarly to the other groups of population chess players’ food choices  depend on texture, taste and appearance more than on nutritional value.

  3. Children must be taught how to nutrient well because appropriate education helps young people to enjoy a better quality of life.

  4. In the course of years’ training more and more eating mistakes have appeared and bad nutritional habits have become strengthened. Therefore nutritional education and monitoring common diet should be conducted in early stages of chess players sports career.

  5. It was also observed that young chess players in all studied groups prefer non active forms in their leisure time like playing computer or watching TV. That’s why they should be informed about advantages of physical activity and its influence on health and sport achievements.

  6. Taking into consideration the huge benefits of regular movement our community should help to create a new picture of modern chess player who aims at both mentality and physical perfection.

  7. Moreover, parents and coaches need to be aware of the importance of proper nutrition and physical activity for the youth and to promote lifestyle factors that contribute to health.

Information about authors

Dr. Agnieszka Fornal-Urban – adjunct in Department of Health Promotion, University of Physical Education in Warsaw. She gives lectures on nutrition, dietetics and health promotion for students in the fields of: physical education, tourism and recreation, physiotherapy. She is also manager of postgraduate studies and courses organized by the University. Organizer or co-organizer of many chess events, including them: the European Women Chess Championship'2001, the European Chess Championship'2005, the European Rapid Chess Championship'2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, match Karpov – Macieja’2003, PWPW S.A. Chess Cup’2004, match Buenos Aires-Calcutta-Warsaw’2007, tournaments for children. She is Youth Director in the European Chess Union and Board member of the Polish Chess Federation.

Email: agnieszka.fornal (at) gmail.com

Dr. Anna Kęska – adjunct in Department of Biology, University of Physical Education in Warsaw. She gives lectures in biology, physiology and nutrition for students in the fields of: physical education, tourism and recreation, physiotherapy.

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