The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that teenagers get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, but it estimates that only 10 percent of adolescents are meeting the recommendation. Researchers from Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri wanted to find out where teens get most of their exercise so they could determine how to encourage them to be more active. They found that teens are most active at school, but they are not very active overall. The researchers suggest that schools can help teens increase their activity levels.
Data for the study came from the Teen Environment and Neighborhood study, which followed over 900 adolescents aged 12 to 16 in three large U.S. between 2009 and 2011. For part of the study, teens were asked to wear a belt with a GPS device and an accelerometer for at least a full school day and for a weekend. The GPS device showed where teens were active and the accelerometer tracked how active they were.
On average, the 549 teenagers who completed the study were active for 39.4 minutes per day. About 58 percent of their activity, or 23 minutes, took place at school. Teenagers spend almost half of their waking hours at school, so it makes sense that a large percentage of their activity takes place there. However, according to study author Dr. Jordan Carlson, “They’re getting a lot less activity at school than we thought. We were surprised that they only spent about 4.8 percent of their time at school actually physically active.”
The study revealed that, in addition to school, teens tended to be most active in the neighborhood near their home. When at home, indoors, the teenagers were largely inactive. Girls were less active than boys in most environments.
It is possible that teenagers would be more active if schools offered more opportunities for physical activity. Teens looking to be more active should also spend less time indoors at home.
This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.
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