Few older adolescents meet recommended levels of physical activity

1. Less than 9% of adolescents studied performed an hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily.

2. Young adults attending college and living on campus had higher levels of MVPA compared to non-students and those living at home.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)                       

Study Rundown: While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of 60 minutes of MVPA daily, existing data suggests that adolescents often do not meet this goal. To further characterize exercise habits, researchers in the current study used a combination of accelerometers and self-reporting among a longitudinal cohort of adolescents to examine activity levels. Investigators found that less than 9% of high school age adolescents met the recommended levels of MVPA. Participants were more likely to meet MVPA goals on weekdays compared to weekends. Furthermore, increasing BMI over the 4-year study period was associated with lower levels of MVPA. In older adolescents and young adults, attending a 4-year college and living on campus were associated with higher levels of MVPA when compared to those not attending school or living off campus. This study is strengthened by its large, relatively diverse sample and the use of accelerometers as a measure of activity. However, it is important to note that while the difference in activity levels is statistically significant, the actual number of minutes of difference among groups is so small that the clinical significance may be questionable. Overall, the study findings reveal the overall low level of activity among adolescents and suggest that social context may play a large role in activity levels and could be a target for intervention.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity from ages 9 to 15 years

In-Depth [prospective observational study]: A total of 289 normal-weight participants and 272 overweight participants from 44 schools representing urban, suburban, and rural communities were given a hip accelerometer and surveyed regarding activity planning, parental support for activity, peer physical activity, and sociodemographic characteristics over the course of 4 years. Less than 9% of participants met the recommended ≥ 60 minutes of activity daily on weekdays and weekends. Participants were more active on weekdays compared to weekends (19-21 min/day and 25-36 min/day, respectively). When compared with overweight participants, normal-weight participants were significantly more active (26 and 30 min/day of activity on weekdays, respectively, p < 0.05). Participants who attended 4-year college versus not, and those living on campus versus at home were more likely to engage in MVPA (B = 0.53, p < 0.001 and B = 0.37, p < 0.001, respectively).

Image: PD

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