Children’s Physical Activity Level Drops Dramatically in Teen Years, Study Shows

Children’s Activity Level Drops Sharply in Teen Years, Study Shows

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

All you Powerful Parents out there whose older children and teens have the benefit of a great physical curriculum at their Powerful Words Member School, you just might be beating the odds. A long term study, out this week, has shown a sharp decline in children’s activity level between the ages of 9 and 15 years old. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), children at age 9 years old averaged about 3 hours of vigorous physical activity (MVPA) while teens, by the time they reached 15 years old, only averaged about 40 minutes of MVPA per weekday and 35 minutes per weekend!

“Lack of physical activity in childhood raises the risk for obesity and its attendant health problems later in life,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Helping American children maintain appropriate activity levels is a major public health goal requiring immediate action.”

Lack of physical activity coupled with poor diet (lots of sugar in food and in drinks, etc.) is a dangerous recipe for poor health!

The Study:

  • Who was studied? More than 1,000 children from ethnically and economically diverse backgrounds. The researchers started to collect information on the activity levels of 9 year olds for four to seven days several years ago. Then they conducted follow up studies on the children when at age 11, 12, and 15 years of age.
  • How? The children’s activity was recorded with an accelerometer, a device that records movement, which the children wore on a belt.
  • When/where will it be published? Today, in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Authors: Philip Nader, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego, along with colleagues.
  • Why is so important? It’s recommended in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines that children and teens engage in at least 60 minutes of MVPA on most or all days.
  • What might be going on? While the study didn’t measure the reasons for the sharp decline, the researchers suggested that schools do, indeed, tend to limit physical activity as children grow into their teens. Recess is not typically part of the school day at that time and many schools do not require physical education either. Further, as sports become more elite and exclusive in school as the children become teens, the average athletes drop out and only the best athletes continue.
  • Interesting Facts:
    • Ages 9-11 years old: More than 90% of the children evaluated met the recommended level of 60 minutes of more of MVPA per day.
    • Age 15: Only 31% met the recommended level of MVPA per weekday and only 17% met the recommended activity level on weekends.
    • Plummeting levels: The researchers suggested that MVPA declined by about 40 minutes per day each year until the age of 15 years when the majority of kids failed to meet the daily recommended level of activity.
    • Gender issues: Researchers found that on average, boys remained more active than girls. Boys tended to spend 18 more minutes per weekday in MVPA than did girls and 13 more minutes per weekend day. Girls dropped below the recommended level of MVPA (at least 60 minutes per weekday) by age 13.1 years in comparison for boys, who did not drop below that level until age 14.7 years. For weekend days, girls dropped below the recommended level of activity at age 12.6 years while boys dropped below the recommended activity level for weekends at 13.4 years.

“When you are younger, it’s much easier to go out and do things spontaneously,” said James A. Griffin, deputy chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the national institutes’ Center for Research for Mothers and Children. “But when you get older, kids tend to play a video game or watch television with their friends. Parents need to be aware to help them balance that out a little better.”

It’s vital that we keep our children and teens active. As schools are not providing or requiring consistent and reliable physical activity, as powerful parents, we must ensure that our children are indeed getting the recommended physical activity they need each day. Children in martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, cheer, dance and other sports can work on their muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density as well as gain self confidence and strength of character through their Powerful Words Member Schools and Activity Centers.

Congratulations, Powerful Parents, for keeping your children committed to their health and beating the averages! Your child’s determination to stay healthy and fit during his or her teen years is more important than ever!

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7 Responses

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  3. Author says it is vital that we keep our children and teens active. As schools are not providing or requiring consistent and reliable physical activity.So parents should care for physical activities of there children’s.

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