teenage boy using laptop for web surfing while lying on the couch

Declining physical activity levels in children and teens

Young adults and children are less physically active than our predecessors were at that age. Modern life means more time spent on the couch with digital devices and less time being actually active.

A new study from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, show us that the levels of physical activity among children and teens is even lower than previously thought and by age 19, their physical activity levels were comparable to a 60 year old.

For this study, researchers analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 survey cycles. All of the 12,529 participants wore tracking devices for seven days to measure the amount of light to moderate to rigorous physical activity they engaged in. They only took off the devices for bathing or at bed time.

The only age group which saw an increase in activity levels was the 20-somethings group (young adults) which was spread out throughout the day.

The researchers broke down findings into five age groups: children (ages six to 11); adolescents (ages 12 to 19); young adults (ages 20 to 29); adults at midlife (ages 31 to 59); and older adults (age 60 through age 84).

49 per cent of the participants were male while the rest were female.

The only age group which saw an increase in activity levels was the 20-somethings group (young adults) which was spread out throughout the day. There was an increase in physical activity levels in the early morning compared to the younger groups, which could be related to starting full-time work.

For all age groups, men generally had higher physical activity levels than women, particularly high-intensity activity, but these levels dropped off sharply after midlife compared to women.

Among the 60 year olds and over, men were more sedentary and had lower light intensity activity levels compared to women.

The study also identified the different times throughout the day when physical activity was the highest and the lowest for the different groups which could help develop programs based not only on the age but also on the times of lowest activity.

The study also confirmed that the WHO guidelines on physical activity and exercise were not being met . While the WHO guidelines is 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day for children between the ages of five and 17, the study found that more than 25 per cent of the boys and 50 per cent of girls age six to 11 and more than 50 per cent of males and 75 per cent of female adolescents aged 12 to 19 years did not meet these guidelines.

The researchers suggest that while most programs aim at increasing high intensity activity, focus should now be on increasing lower intensity activity and trying to abolish inactivity while taking the time of the day into considerations amongst other things.

At an individual level more effort should be made to increase your levels of activity and it starts by inculcating those good exercise habits in your children from an early age.

Source: Preventive Medicine

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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