Study finds that few children meet daily exercise guideline goals

January 9, 2017
“Clearly, schools need to be aware of this disparity and should focus on increasing all intensities of physical activity equally for all children across the school day,” said Jennifer Sacheck. Credit: iStock

Guidelines recommend that children get an hour of exercise every day, including a half hour during school. Unfortunately, a study finds that few kids are meeting that goal, with girls particularly likely to fall short during school time.

A team led by Tufts researchers tracked the physical activity of 453 third, fourth and fifth graders at schools throughout Massachusetts for a week. They found that only 15 percent of children were getting the 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (such as bike riding, playing tag or jumping rope) that the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend. Just 8 percent were getting 30 minutes during the school day, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

The researchers expected the school day to be an equalizer, giving boys, girls and children of different weights similar exposure to physical activity. "Instead, we found that girls and were less active for all measured segments, including during the school day," said first author Kristie Hubbard, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Girls were far less likely than boys to meet the guidelines, as only 8 percent met the daily total and 2 percent met school-time recommendations. Overweight and obese children were less active as well, both in and out of school.

The researchers also measured the students' light physical activity, such as walking around. Girls and boys did similar amounts of light activity outside of school, but girls clocked significantly fewer minutes than boys during the school day. And all the children did less light physical activity as they got older.

Jennifer Sacheck, N01, the study's senior author and an associate professor at Tufts' Friedman School, said schools need to give kids more opportunities for physical activity—from light to vigorous—and pay special attention to . "Clearly, schools need to be aware of this disparity and should focus on increasing all intensities of equally for all across the day," she said.

Explore further: Few children get 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity daily

Related Stories

Physical activity encouraged more in boys than in girls

March 9, 2016

School and family influences on physical activity may be stronger in boys than in girls in Australia, according to a study published March 9, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Rohan Telford from the University of ...

Sedentary lifestyle may impair academic performance in boys

November 30, 2016

A sedentary lifestyle is linked to poorer reading skills in the first three school years in 6-8 year old boys, according to a new study from Finland. The study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration ...

Children aren't active enough in winter, say researchers

February 23, 2016

Children should be given more support to enable them to be more active during the winter, particularly at weekends, say researchers from the University of Cambridge. Their call comes in response to their findings that children ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.