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Health & Parenting

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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

continued...

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."

In his study published 2011 in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Sallis and others found that youth practicing on soccer, baseball and softball teams actually got in only about 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, on average, on practice days.

Good news from the new CDC study, Sallis said, was that "all of the girls' top five activities provide continuous movement."

Some research has found that children who get regular physical activity carry the habit into adult years, Fakhouri said.

Parents can encourage more physical activity among their children by doing some exercise with them, Fakhouri said, and letting them know the one hour can be cumulative over the day. "Even though the one hour a day may seem overwhelming, you can achieve these goals doing small things -- taking a family walk after dinner, dancing and playing basketball," she said.

Parents can also obtain much information from the Let's Move! initiative developed by First Lady Michelle Obama, she added.

For his part, Sallis said, "I would ask parents to resolve to make sure their children get physical activity every day, and they can't count on schools to provide all the activity teens need."

He suggested signing children up for after-school sports, dance and martial arts classes. However, the programs vary in how much activity is involved. "And the only way for parents to know is to go and observe," he said.

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