According to a new study, physical activity levels among children and teens are much lower than expected, and that it only seems to increase in people older than 20 and younger than 35.

The study was carried out with tracking devices, participants only removing them for bathing and bedtime. Apparently, school-age children were mostly active only between 2 and 6 p.m., their largest window for activity. The study team states that parents should help their kids to make use of this short window to perform physical activity.

"The big question is how do we modify daily schedules, in schools for example, to be more conducive to increasing physical activity?," stated lead author Vadim Zipunnikov.
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“The big question is how do we modify daily schedules, in schools for example, to be more conducive to increasing physical activity?,” stated lead author Vadim Zipunnikov.

Out of 5 groups, four were classified as partially sedentary

Researchers took data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, gathering a study sample of 12,529 participants. They wore tracking devices for seven straight days. The devices measured the activity level of each participant, recording whenever they were sedentary or involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

They divided participants into five groups: Children (6 to 11), adolescents (12 to 19), young adults (20 to 29), adults at midlife (31 to 59), and older adults (60 to 84).

Researchers saw that the only group whose activity levels increased throughout the day were the young adults, perhaps due to the incidence of full-time work and several other life changes.

Overall, men scored a higher activity level than women, but for adults at midlife the levels evened out. For adults older than 60, males were more sedentary and less active than females.

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Recommendations for physical activity levels in children

Helping kids cultivate a fitness routine early in life can carry on to their adult years. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children aged between 6 and 17 years should have at least one daily hour of physical activity. Most of it should be in the form of aerobic physical activity, including vigorous physical activity at least three days per week. The routine should also include muscle strengthening and bone strengthening physical activity.

The CDC issued guidelines for nurturing the physical activity of kids and teens after seeing that in 2008, only 11 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys in grades 9 to 12 stated to be physically active at least one hour per day. Within the same demographic, 35 percent of the kids claimed that they watched 3 or more hours of television per day.

Children are advised to participate in activities that are beneficial for their growth and development. Their family should help too, assisting the kid to build a fitness routine, such as taking a walk after dinner or doing housework together. The CDC also suggests biking to the bus stop instead of using the car, flying kites, using jump ropes, playing basketball, or perhaps joining a sports team.

Physical activity in kids should be in both competitive and non-competitive forms, with parents playing a significant role in helping them engage in their new interests.

Parents are also advised to limit screen time, which includes watching TV, playing video games, or using the computer and their smartphone. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children older than two years of age should not spend more than 2 hours watching a screen. Additionally, the CDC encourages parents to refrain from using screen time as either reward or punishment for kids. Also, it is recommended to put TVs and computers in common areas, instead of living rooms.

Source: Johns Hopkins School of Public Health