WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- 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
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
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
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 regular physical
activity 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 physical activity 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.
To learn more about kids and physical activity, visit
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