Most US Teenagers Fall Short of Physical Activity Guidelines

Megan Brooks

January 08, 2014

Most American adolescents do not get the recommended amount of physical activity each day, according to the latest federal statistics.

In 2012, only about one quarter (24.8%) of youth 12 to 15 years old engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily, as currently recommended, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in a National Center for Health Statistics data brief.

Nearly 8% of youth in this age group did not get any moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

By sex, 27.0% of boys and 22.5% of girls engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 60 minutes or more on every day of the week in 2012. The difference was not statistically significant and mirrors other studies that have found boys to be more physically active than girls, the CDC notes.

Basketball was the most common activity reported among active boys, followed by running, football, bike riding, and walking. For girls, the most popular activity was running, followed by walking, basketball, dancing, and bike riding.

The data also confirm that heavier boys and girls tend to be less physically active compared with normal-weight boys and girls.

"Regular physical activity among youth promotes physical and psychological health and improves some aspects of academic performance," Tala H. Fakhouri, PhD, and colleagues at the CDC note in their report.

They point out that physical activity behaviors track from childhood into young adulthood.

"Given that physical inactivity in adulthood is a modifiable risk factor for many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, tracking the prevalence of physical activity among U.S. youth may help inform public health interventions," they conclude.

The data stem from the combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey for 2012.

"Physical Activity in U.S. Youth Aged 12–15 years, 2012." CDC. Full text

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