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Just 1 in 4 U.S. Teens Gets Enough Exercise: Report

Boys slightly more likely than girls to meet hour-a-day recommendation

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Although U.S. health experts recommend that kids engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes daily, only one in four actually does so, according to a report released Wednesday.

However, about 60 percent of boys surveyed and 49 percent of girls did get in an hour five days or more each week, according to study researcher Tala Fakhouri.

Overall, she said, the researchers aren't happy with the findings. "This is not enough. I think we can do better," said Fakhouri, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another expert agreed. "Only one-quarter of adolescents getting one hour of activity every day is a low percentage," said James Sallis, a distinguished professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. "This means most teens are at risk for poor physical and mental health due to their inactive lifestyles. The data was obtained by self-report, which is notorious for overestimating."

The new findings come at a time when child obesity is a growing concern and there's a nationwide push to get kids more active.

The CDC researchers used 2012 data from the combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey. The findings are published in the January issue of the NCHS Data Brief.

Kids covered in the report were aged 12 to 15. Boys were more likely than girls to meet the 60 minutes a day recommendation, with 27 percent of them doing so. Among girls, 22.5 percent met the requirement.

The researchers also found that nearly 8 percent of kids did not get in any moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for an hour on any day of the week.

Boys who exercised favored basketball, followed by running, football, bike riding and walking. Girls favored running, then walking, basketball, dancing and bike riding.

The boys and girls who were obese were less likely to be active than the youth of normal weight. It's not clear exactly why that is, the researchers said. While some think obesity is due to the inactivity, at least partially, others suggest the inactivity is due to the obesity.

The new data echo some findings from a previous CDC study, Fakhouri said. "In data from 2011, [researchers] found 29 percent of high school children met the physical activity guideline of one hour a day, every day," she said.

Moderate-to-vigorous activity is exercise such as walking or jogging, done intensely enough so that ''you can talk but you cannot sing," she said.

Sallis said the finding that boys prefer basketball is a positive one "because it is such an active game." However, he added, football, also popular among boys, "likely provides limited activity because they spend most of the time waiting for the next play."

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