Physical activity levels dropped sharply in a large group of American children between ages 9 and 15, according to a new study. By the age of 15, most failed to reach the daily recommended activity level.
A lack of physical activity in childhood raises the risk for obesity and the many health problems it can contribute to later in life, including heart disease and diabetes. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, if not all, days.
To see whether children are meeting these recommendations, an NIH-funded team recorded the activity of more than 800 9-year-olds for about a week. The kids’ activity levels were measured again at 11, 12 and 15.
At ages 9 and 11, more than 90% of the children met the recommended level of activity. By age 15, however, only 31% met the recommended level on weekdays, and only 17% met it on weekends.
This research highlights the need for action by families, communities, schools, health care systems and governments to help encourage physical activity as children get older.
“Whenever possible, parents could encourage family walks with their children,” said study leader Dr. Philip Nader at the University of California at San Diego. “Even walking for as few as 15 minutes a day would provide health benefits. On weekends, family outings could be centered on longer walks or biking.”