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Nine out of ten U.S. high school students aren’t getting enough exercise, and their habits tend to persist beyond graduation, according to a recent study.
Colorado State University assistant professor Kaigang Li employed a novel approach in researching the fitness and exercise habits of kids in their late teens.
Rather than relying on surveys and questionnaires to obtain data, Li asked the participants in the study to wear accelerometers – devices that measure the amount and intensity of physical activity – so that he could get an accurate picture of how much daily exercise the teens were actually getting.
The four-year study involved around 600 students, aged 16 to 19, from 44 different schools across the U.S. The teens were monitored from 10th grade through the first year after graduation – a period of “great transition and development,” according to Li.
Based on the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended daily amount of exercise for kids to stay healthy – a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity – Li and his colleagues found that 91 percent of the 16- to 19-year-old participants did not meet the requirements.
Kids exercise less and less as they get older
Previous studies have shown that the amount of daily physical activity tends to decline from childhood to adolescence, and then into late teenage years and beyond. For example, only 0.04 percent of 9-year-olds engage in less than an hour of daily exercise, but the figure increases to 70 percent for 15-year-olds. And beyond the age of 15 kids become even more sedentary – and they tend to stay that way.
From CSU’s Source:
“[Li] found that, after high school, physical activity levels continued to decline or remained low, regardless of whether the teens went on to college. Those who did attend college were slightly more active than those who didn’t, and of the college students, those living off campus exercised less than on-campus residents.”
Kids who don’t get enough exercise often face serious health issues later in life, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Li. “Parents and schools need to be doing more to help kids make exercise part of their daily life.”