More than 80% of school-going adolescents across the world do not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day – including 85% of girls and 78% of boys, according to World Health Organisation.
The first ever global trends for adolescent insufficient physical activity show that urgent action is needed to increase physical activity levels in girls and boys aged 11 to 17 years. The study was published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal and produced by researchers the WHO.
The study – which is based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students – finds that across all 146 countries studied between 2001-2016 girls were less active than boys in all but four (Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia).
The difference in the proportion of boys and girls meeting the recommendations was greater than 10 percentage points in almost one in three countries in 2016 (29%, 43 of 146 countries), with the biggest gaps seen in the United States of America and Ireland (more than 15 percentage points). Most countries in the study (73%, 107 of 146) saw this gender gap widen between 2001-2016. Young people’s health compromised by insufficient physical activity
The authors say that levels of insufficient physical activity in adolescents continue to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health. “Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity,” says study author Dr Regina Guthold, WHO.
The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle during adolescence include improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardiometabolic health, and positive effects on weight. There is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socializing. Current evidence suggests that many of these benefits continue into adulthood.
To achieve these benefits, the WHO recommends for adolescents to do moderate or vigorous physical activity for an hour or more each day.
The authors estimated how many 11- to 17-year-olds do not meet this recommendation by analysing data collected through school-based surveys on physical activity levels. The assessment included all types of physical activity, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education and planned exercise.