More than half of teens in America are not receiving enough exercise every day, contributing to the nation’s budding obesity crisis, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Georgia, in Athens, found that around 75 percent of Americans aged 14 to 18 are not reaching daily recommended exercise levels – with girls reporting less activity than their male peers.
Not enough recreational time schools combined with the potential negative effects of bullying seem to be the main factors, according to the researchers.
America is currently undergoing a pediatric obesity crisis, with 20 percent of children being dangerously overweight and more than 200,000 suffering from diabetes, according to official figures.
Researchers found that 75% of American children are not getting enough exercise daily, with girls in particular living more sedentary lifestyles (file photo)
‘The length of recess, physical facilities and social environments at schools have been found to affect physical activity among students,’ Dr Janani Thapa, a health policy professor at Georgia who led the research, said in a statement.
Researchers, who published their findings earlier this year in the Journal of Adolescence, gathered data from a survey that encompassed 360,000 high school students in the Peach state.
The survey included questions on exercise habits, but also on more social matters like school connectedness, peer and adult social support, acceptance, their environment, school safety, bullying and support environment at school.
Ninth graders, who were the youngest to take part in the survey, reported the most physical activity with twelfth graders reporting the least.
Children who felt that their school was a safer, more positive, environment with less bullying were also more likely to exercise.
‘We do not know much about the role of school climate on physical activity,’ Thapa said, noting that there is not any research yet showing why a child who feels less safe at school is more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle.
‘There must have been barriers that were faced by certain groups of students.’
Females were also significantly less likely to live an active lifestyle than their male peers, with just over a third reporting meeting daily activity goals.
For comparison, 57 percent of males in the survey lived active lives.
‘Over time, the state has observed declining levels of physical activity among all adolescents, but the rate is higher among female middle and high school students,’ Thapa continued.
How bullying affected a child was drastically different depending on their gender, though.
Young girls who were bullied were more likely to live active lives, while the opposite trend was found for teenage boys.
Researchers found that male teens who were bullied were less likely to exercise, while the reverse was true from young girls. They hope more recess and physical education courses will help children get more exercise every day (file photo)
‘For example, female students who are active in sports and physically active may not fit the gender norm and hence may face bullying,’ Thapa explained.
She recommends schools serve as a resource to helping children live more active lives.
This can include more recreational time – including extended recess periods – and more physical education and fitness classes.
Sedentary lifestyles among children have been blamed for fueling the rise of pediatric obesity and diabetes in America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every five U.S. children is suffering from obesity.
Those that are obese are at increased risk of developing many other conditions down the line if they do not get their weight under control, like multiple cancers, diabetes, heart disease and more.
The CDC also reports that over 200,000 American children are suffering diabetes, a condition that can be debilitating over an entire lifetime.