Majority of kids worldwide aren’t getting enough activity, study says

Report Says Children Around the World Aren't Active Enough

Around the world, kids reaching advised levels of physical activity. What can be done to help?

Across the globe, from the United States to Australia and more countries in between, kids ages 11-17 aren't getting enough activity, according to an analysis from the World Health Organization.

The analysis builds on a report from 2018 that compared 49 countries and found that 75% of the countries have a failing grade for physical activity in children.

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The WHO analysis looked at data from 146 countries between 2001 and 2016.

“Consistent with available evidence, our data show that levels of insufficient activity among adolescents continue to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health,” the report reads.

According to WHO, 78% of girls globally aren’t getting enough physical activity, while the same is true for 78% of boys. The lack of activity is impacting the overall health of kids around the world.

"Children who are more active have better health and wellbeing and generally do better in school," Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, told the BBC.

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While there is no clear answer as to why physical activity levels are low, one explanation is schools prioritizing academic performance over physical fitness.

In Georgia, there was a push to institute mandatory recess in schools across the state, but the fight at the statehouse ultimately ended in a veto from Gov. Brian Kemp.

“This legislation would impose unreasonable burdens on educational leaders without meaningful justification,” Kemp said of the bill.

However, habits formed in childhood can carry on into adulthood. Dr. Regina Guthold with the World Health Organization told the BBC that whether or not kids are active or not during childhood will likely continue to follow them throughout their life.

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"They have better cognitive function, easier learning, they have better pro-social behavior," Dr Guthold told the BBC. "Active adolescents are likely to be active adults."

So what can be done to combat the crisis? Here are some recommendations from WHO:

  • Kids ages 5-17 get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-level physical activity every day.
  • Additional activity will have greater health benefits for kids.
  • Most physical activity for youth should be aerobic.
  • Other activities that strengthen bones and muscles should be incorporated at least three times a week.

“Physical activity has also been associated with psychological benefits in young people by improving their control over symptoms of anxiety and depression,” according to WHO.