Just 1 in 4 US teens gets enough exercise

January 8, 2014 by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Just 1 in 4 U.S. teens gets enough exercise: report
Boys slightly more likely than girls to meet hour-a-day recommendation.

(HealthDay)—Although U.S. health experts recommend that kids engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily, only one in four actually does so, according to a report released Wednesday.

However, about 60 percent of boys surveyed and 49 percent of girls did get in an hour five days or more each week, according to study researcher Tala Fakhouri.

Overall, she said, the researchers aren't happy with the findings. "This is not enough. I think we can do better," said Fakhouri, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another expert agreed. "Only one-quarter of adolescents getting one hour of activity every day is a low percentage," said James Sallis, a distinguished professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. "This means most teens are at risk for poor physical and mental health due to their inactive lifestyles. The data was obtained by self-report, which is notorious for overestimating."

The new findings come at a time when child obesity is a growing concern and there's a nationwide push to get kids more active.

The CDC researchers used 2012 data from the combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey. The findings are published in the January issue of the NCHS Data Brief.

Kids covered in the report were aged 12 to 15. Boys were more likely than girls to meet the 60 minutes a day recommendation, with 27 percent of them doing so. Among girls, 22.5 percent met the requirement.

The researchers also found that nearly 8 percent of kids did not get in any moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for an hour on any day of the week.

Boys who exercised favored basketball, followed by running, football, bike riding and walking. Girls favored running, then walking, basketball, dancing and bike riding.

The boys and girls who were obese were less likely to be active than the youth of normal weight. It's not clear exactly why that is, the researchers said. While some think obesity is due to the inactivity, at least partially, others suggest the inactivity is due to the obesity.

The new data echo some findings from a previous CDC study, Fakhouri said. "In data from 2011, [researchers] found 29 percent of high school children met the physical activity guideline of one hour a day, every day," she said.

Moderate-to-vigorous activity is exercise such as walking or jogging, done intensely enough so that ''you can talk but you cannot sing," she said.

Sallis said the finding that boys prefer basketball is a positive one "because it is such an active game." However, he added, football, also popular among boys, "likely provides limited activity because they spend most of the time waiting for the next play."

In his study published 2011 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Sallis and others found that youth practicing on soccer, baseball and softball teams actually got in only about 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, on average, on practice days.

Good news from the new CDC study, Sallis said, was that "all of the girls' top five activities provide continuous movement."

Some research has found that children who get carry the habit into adult years, Fakhouri said.

Parents can encourage more physical activity among their children by doing some exercise with them, Fakhouri said, and letting them know the one hour can be cumulative over the day. "Even though the one hour a day may seem overwhelming, you can achieve these goals doing small things—taking a family walk after dinner, dancing and playing basketball," she said.

Parents can also obtain much information from the Let's Move! initiative developed by First Lady Michelle Obama, she added.

For his part, Sallis said, "I would ask parents to resolve to make sure their children get every day, and they can't count on schools to provide all the activity teens need."

He suggested signing children up for after-school sports, dance and martial arts classes. However, the programs vary in how much activity is involved. "And the only way for parents to know is to go and observe," he said.

Explore further: Half of all UK seven year olds not exercising for recommended minimum

More information: To learn more about kids and physical activity, visit Let's Move!

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1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2014
Among other things, a crucial point. Teens forty, fifty, sixty years ago didn't have this problem. But in what way have teens' activities changed? In fact, teens don't necessarily do that much different today than back then. Kids under twelve can be targeted for more outside and independent activity, rather than television and video games. But teens were never necessarily that much for "tag" and "hide 'n' seek". And they didn't sign teens up for things like martial arts in the Fifties. Indeed, what teens do today is largely what they did then. Hang around with friends, do some informal sports, take walks. One of the few differences is the fact that drugs, particularly marijuana, are becoming more and more available, more and more accepted. And a major part of the drug culture is excess consumption of food. And not from physiological need, drugs tend to gloss over lives of failure and no meaning, and that leads to substituting food for meaning in life.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2014
Teens did more manual labor around the home a few generations ago, when agriculture was still more about individual families in some regions, such as the south and the mid-west.

When wood burning fireplaces were still widely in use, many teens were the ones doing the "low skill" manual chores, like chopping wood, while parents worked. As electric heaters and natural systems became more prevalent this lifestyle faded more and more, but the south, particularly in rural areas, did not catch up nearly as fast as the big cities and the north in general. Just as an example, the street I live on had "party lines" as recently as the 1960's.

So these highly physical chores which were much more common a few generations ago represent an "exercise budget" which is not recreational, which favored those age groups and prior generations as compared to today, where almost nobody cuts firewood for heating or cooking.

For the most part, nobody even lifts anything at work any more. no physicality.
not rated yet Jan 09, 2014
Seems like they started with a conclusion, then came up with somewhat specious data to support it. Who decided "60 minutes"? What, precisely, is "moderate to vigorous"? The conclusion itself is vague; what is the outcome of "enough" or "not enough"?

I wouldn't dispute that exercise is a good activity, and that most Americans don't get enough of it, but I would resist trying to cloak that pronouncement in scientific mumbo-jumbo.

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