More than half of America’s teens aren’t getting enough exercise each day, a new study has found, contributing to the country’s obesity crisis.
Researchers from the University of Georgia at Athens found that about 75 percent of Americans aged 14 to 18 do not reach the recommended daily level of physical activity, with girls reporting less activity than their male peers.
According to the researchers, the main factors seem to be the lack of leisure time in schools, coupled with the potential negative effects of bullying.
America is currently in the midst of a pediatric obesity crisis: according to official figures, 20 percent of children are dangerously overweight and more than 200,000 children have diabetes.
Researchers have found that 75% of American children don’t get enough exercise every day, with girls in particular being sedentary (file photo).
“The duration of breaks, physical opportunities, and the social environment in schools were found to influence students’ physical activity,” Dr. Janani Tapa, professor of health policy at Georgia, who led the study, said in a statement.
The researchers who published their findings earlier this year in Adolescence magazinecollected data from a survey of 360,000 high school students in Peach State.
The survey included questions about exercise habits as well as more social issues such as connection to school, peer and adult social support, acceptance, their environment, safety at school, bullying and support at school.
Ninth graders, who were the youngest participants in the survey, reported the most physical activity, while twelfth graders reported the least.
Children who felt their school was a safer, more positive environment with less bullying were also more likely to play sports.
“We don’t know much about the role of the school climate in physical activity,” Tapa said, noting that there are no studies yet to show why a child who feels less safe in school is more likely to be sedentary.
“There must have been barriers that certain groups of students faced.”
Women were also significantly less likely to be active than their male peers, with just over a third reporting reaching daily activity goals.
For comparison, 57% of the men surveyed led an active lifestyle.
“Over time, the state has seen a decline in physical activity among all teens, but the rate is higher among middle and high school students,” Tapa continued.
However, how bullying affected a child varied greatly by gender.
Young girls who were bullied were more likely to be active, while adolescent boys showed the opposite trend.
The researchers found that male teens who were bullied were less likely to exercise, while younger girls observed the opposite. They hope the extra breaks and physical education classes will help the kids get more exercise every day. (File photo)
“For example, female students who are actively involved in sports and are physically active may not conform to gender norms and therefore may face bullying,” Tapa explained.
She recommends that schools serve as a resource to help children become more active.
This may include more rest time, including longer breaks, and more exercise and fitness.
Sedentary lifestyles among children are blamed for the rise in childhood obesity and diabetes in America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five children in the United States is obese.
Those who are obese are at an increased risk of developing many other diseases in the future if they do not control their weight, such as multiple cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
The CDC also reports that more than 200,000 American children suffer from diabetes, a condition that can be debilitating throughout life.