The health advantages of taking exercises are well-established, from more vigorous bodily and mental health to maintain a healthy power. However, most teenagers around the world are not going as much use as they have to do, according to large modern research.
The Latest Investigation
The report, based on studies of 1.6 million schoolchildren ages 11 to 17 in 146 countries, has discovered that more than 80 percent of teenagers in 2019 did not adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise per day.
Girls were less actually active than boys in almost all countries considered. And while the proportion of boys who did not get adequate exercise declined slightly from 2001 to 2019, girls’ physical exercise stayed about the same. There was no variation in physical activity in higher- versus lower-income countries. South Korea and the Philippines had the most important levels of inactivity in girls and boys, individually, among all countries considered.
By opposition, Bangladesh and India had the least inactivity between both sexes. As for the USA, their activity fluctuates from low-level one to the middle, which gives a chance for surviving the next generations.
The conclusions, being announced on Thursday in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, recommend an urgent requirement to scale up practical policies directed at increasing physical activity among adolescents worldwide, the report’s authors sign. They request the financial investments and leadership at all levels to address the lack of physical exercise and sex disparity and further call for involving young people themselves to assist in solving the problem itself.
“It’s a pandemic,” tells Abby King, a professor of health analysis, policy, and medicine at Stanford University, who co-chaired a consultative committee on physical activity guidelines in the United States in 2018 and was not included in the study. “The article performs it clear that the courses are going in the wrong way, particularly for the girls.”
Regina Guthold, an epidemiologist at the WHO’s Maternal, Newborn Child and Adolescent Health Department, and her colleagues accompanied the research by combining data from 293 questionnaires of physical exercise in a random sample of at least 100 school-going boys and girls in each country or region concerned.
The WHO’s definition of physical activity involves walking or biking to school, active play, physical training classes, and after-school sports, and the 60-minute recommendation was cumulative for the day. The researchers estimated the predominance of physical inactivity among four various income groups, nine geographic regions, and by country, from 2001 to 2019.
Just under 78 percent of boys did not meet the WHO’s physical activity recommendations in 2019, a slight drop from about 80 percent in 2001. By the distinction, a staggering 85 percent of girls did not reach the WHO threshold in 2019—not a statistically meaningful change from 2001. High-income countries such as Singapore, the US, and Ireland had the most notable gap in exercise levels between boys and girls; all had a variation of more than 13 percentage points in 2019.
Active Movements Towards Health
“It’s time to do something about it because it is a worry that we have four out of five youths globally who don’t get enough physical exercise,” Guthold stipulates. The WHO member states set a global target of defeating physical inactivity by 15 percent by 2030. At this rate, “we are not at all on track to reach this aim,” she states.
Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and collaborators have issued the first global estimate of adolescent physical activity in 2012 (Guthold was a co-author on that study), finding that 80.3 percent of students ages 13 to 15 in 2008 were not meeting the WHO recommendation.
They issued an updated assessment in 2010, showing similar findings. “This new data confirms pretty much everything we found at that time,” Hallal says. “We are facing a grave public health threat, and people minimize the effect of physical exercise.” The situation, he states, “is not healthy at all.”
Guthold and colleagues speculate that a frequently sedentary lifestyle drives these biases in many countries due to technology use as well as the urban environment. Instead of doing something productive, many young people presently waste time on computers or their smartphones, Guthold states.
They also do not walk or bike to school as much as they used to, in part because of improved traffic and security concerns in big cities. “How can you be effective in these settings if it’s too serious to walk or ride your bike to school?” she states. Safety is likely an even more important concern for girls; she continues.
Physical training programs in schools may also be to blame, and many focus heavily on sports and activities that are more popular with boys than girls. Policymakers should ask young girls about what exercises please them, and PE programs should take those decisions into account, Guthold also states. Schoolhouses are one of the primary places to intervene; she continues.
Special Programs Required
She cites a program in Finland that has tried to integrate physical activity into the school day by scheduling four or five short exercise breaks throughout the day, as well as including more physicality in classes themselves.
Education also plays a role, as cultural norms in some parts of the world control adolescent girls or women from engaging in sports. In countries such as the U.S., India, and Bangladesh, there is a strong social tradition of sports such as football, soccer, and cricket—which are often male-dominated—Guthold notes. Giving more attention to women’s sports organizations and supporting female athletes might help close the gender gap among youths.
The more moderate exercise level in girls was not surprising, King points. Her latest study has shown a sharp decrease in physical exercise among girls in adolescence, and it often continues into adulthood. The aim “could be related to women’s cultural roles and the work roles women are manipulating,” she states.
Furthermore, her research has revealed that women appear to be more sensitive to the walkability of their surroundings. “That’s one thing that I think warrants further research,” she continues.
Technology In Use
While smartphones and other technological tools are likely contributing to the decline in physical exercise, King states, they could also be part of the solution. She and her colleagues have discovered that smartphone apps, in special, can definitely push kids to be more productive.
The current study had some limitations, including the fact that it was only based on data for teenagers in school or at college. Non-school-going kids may be more uncomfortable and have various activity levels, but there is very little data accessible for these children, Guthold states.
All In All
Additionally, the report lacked data on the type of physical exercises adolescents were pursuing—whether it was walking, sports, or active play, for instance. Incorporating data from projects such as step counters and accelerometers might contribute more quantitative measures of physical exercise, rather than relying on pupils’ memories and self-report.
“These data are not perfect,” Guthold states, but the connections are clear: “It’s time to act.”