More than 78 percent of American children do not meet recommended physical activity guidelines, a "D-" grade, according to a new National Physical Activity Plan Alliance report card released Nov. 16.
Furthermore, children ages 6 to 19 received a “D” for Active Transportation (walking or biking to school), a "D-" for Sedentary Behaviors (engaging in no more than 2 hours of daily “screen time”) and an "F" for Health-Related Fitness (meeting general cardiorespiratory standards).
Peter T. Katzmarzyk of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and his research committee used nationally representative survey data to compile the 2016 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. This data was juxtaposed with standards established by the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, recommending children engage in 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity at least three days a week. This kind of activity—such as running, swimming or bicycling—results in positive perspiration and heavy breathing.
The report found teenagers to be less active than younger children. Forty-two-and-a-half percent of those ages 6 to 11 met recommended activity levels, compared to only 7.5 percent of those ages 12 to 15 and 7.5 percent of those ages 16 to 19.
Generally, boys (26 percent) are more physically active than girls (16.9 percent). And children with learning disabilities were 33 less likely to meet guidelines, while those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder were 57 less likely.
The overall physical activity grade of “D-“ remains unchanged from the first report card issued in 2014. Active Transportation and Sedentary Behaviors grades were also unchanged.
“Improving the results of the nation’s report card on physical activity for children and youth will require a multi-pronged, multi-sector approach to create a culture that supports and encourages positive movement experiences for children,” Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), said in a statement responding to the report.
The researchers identified several strategies for improving the categorical grades. They include: offering more school- and childcare-sponsored exercise opportunities, adding and improving outdoor and indoor recreation spaces,; and researching new strategies on how to improve youth activity levels.
Looking forward, the report states: “There is a need for further investigations on how total activity affects health in children and youth independent of the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. There is also a need for further investigation on the interplay between total activity, sleep and sedentary behaviors.”