According to data from both the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and National Youth Fitness Survey for 2012, only 24.8 percent of American adolescents, aged 12 to 15 years old, failed to meet the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity. However, approximately 60 percent of boys and 49 percent of the girls did get an hour of physical activity five or more days each week, according to lead author and epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics Tala Fakhouri.
Moderate-to-vigorous activity is defined as exercise such as walking or jogging, done intensely enough so that ''you can talk but you cannot sing”.
This data is alarming because previous studies showed that physical activity decreases with age. Fakhouri and her colleagues conducted an earlier study and found that 70 percent of children, aged 6 to 11, followed the guidelines.
Executive director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute Michael Bergeron believes that the reduction of physical activity in children aged 6 to 15 resorts to the idea that their kids have more events going on in their lives like social distractions and academic pressure. The older the children get, the more events children have to balance like playing sports, attending parties, and preparing for exams.
Fakhouri, on the other hand, believes the adolescents still need to be physically active, despite all their commitments. Previous studies showed that regular exercise enhances physical health in children, boosts self-esteem, promotes active learning, and helps them deal with stress.
"Regular physical activity among youth promotes physical and psychological health and improves some aspects of academic performance. 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," Fakhouri and researchers conclude in their report.
The boys are shown to be more active than girls. 27.0 percent of boys followed the guidelines with basketball being the most popular physical activity outside of physical education class. In contrast, 22.5 percent of girls followed the activity guidelines with running being the most popular physical activity.