American Youth Are Still Not Exercising

overweight teenagerA new study, published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and lead by Dr. Ronald J. Iannotti, revealed that only 50% of American children and young adults are getting enough exercise and physical activity 5 or more days each week. The study also found that fewer than 1 in 3 of America’s youth are eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

The study around 10,000 high school students between 11 and 16 years old. They were asked about their activity levels and diet, as well as their emotional health, body image and general outlook on life – i.e. are they happy?

3 Diet and Activity Categories

The study grouped diet and activity levels into 3 broad categories:

Typical – 47% of students

The typical youth was the least likely to exercise 4-5 times a week, and they were also least likely to eat fruits and vegetables daily. Typical youth spend the most time watching television, sitting in front of a computer or mobile device or playing video games.

Unhealthful – 26% of students

The unhealthful group spent even more time performing sedentary activities, such as television, computers and video games. The unhealthful group would eat more sweets, candy, and junk food than the typical group.

The unhealthful group followed a poor diet, however, they tended to be underweight rather than overweight. A sign of poor nutrition and a lack of exercise, the students had low muscle mass and were generally unfit. The unhealthful group was more likely to be depressed and suffer from back aches, stomach aches, headaches or feeling dizzy.

Healthful – 27% of students

The healthful group was by far the most active, with 65% of healthful students (17.5% of all students) exercising 5 or more days each week. This subset of the healthful group spent far less time in front of the television and tended to eat fruits and vegetables daily.

Healthful students were also less likely to eat sweets, soft drinks, chips and fries. They were rarely depressed and generally had a good outlook on life.

How To Be Happier and Healthier

At least as far as young adults are concerned, staying active and eating healthy food makes us happier and more positive, as well as fitter, stronger and healthier. This really should not come as a great surprise.

Junk food and sedentary hobbies are slowly killing us. Children born today are likely to have a shorter lifespan than their parents – something unique to the current generation.

The solution is simple – daily exercises and daily fruits and vegetables for all children and young adults.

The Researchers

The study was carried out by staff at the Prevention Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and led by Dr. Ronald J. Iannotti with Jing Wang, Ph.D. Dr. Iannotti was a Professor in the Department of Physical Education at Miami University before joining Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

The research paper has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


Only half of U.S. youth meet physical activity standards, NIH study shows –, Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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