Adolescents worldwide are jeopardizing their health by not getting enough daily exercise, with about 81% of children between ages 11-17 are insufficiently physically active globally, finds a recent study.
As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns, children’s health, brain development, and social skills are being damaged. Furthermore, it suggests that failing to exercise an hour daily is a universal problem among both rich and poor countries.
However, Bangladesh showed a great performance in the world as it boasts the lowest levels of insufficient physical activity in the country in all categories — girls, boys and combined.
The findings are based on 298 school-based surveys from 146 countries, territories, and areas including 1.6 million students aged 11–17 years.
In Bangladesh, two in every three boys and girls aged 11-17 are physically active for 60 minutes a day, finds the study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal and produced by WHO researchers on November 22.
Although the combined rate is 66.1 percent, the rate is 63.2 percent among boys in Bangladesh against the global average of 78 percent, and 69.2 percent for girls against the global average of 85 percent, according to the study.
Globally, the prevalence of insufficient physical activity has decreased slightly in boys between 2001 and 2016 (from 80 percent to 78 percent), but there was no change for girls which remained around 85 percent.
The lower levels of insufficient activity in boys in Bangladesh and India might be explained by the strong focus on national sports, such as cricket, which is frequently played unstructured in local communities, the report explains.
On the other hand, for adolescent females, the region with the lowest levels of insufficient activity in 2016 was in South Asia, which includes Bangladesh and India.
“These two countries reported the lowest prevalence in female insufficient activity in our study, potentially explained by societal factors, such as girls being required to support activity and domestic chores around the home,” said the report.
The assessment included all types of physical activity, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education, and planned exercise.
Boys in the Philippines, girls in South Korea most inactive
Boys were more active than girls in all but four of the 146 countries studied. The study said boys in the Philippines (93%) and girls in South Korea (97%) were the most inactive.
How insufficient physical activity is compromising the health of adolescents
The level of insufficient physical activity in adolescents continues to be extremely high, compromising their current and future health, the report said. Study co-authors Dr Regina Guthold and Dr Fiona Bull urged for the right to exercise among adolescents worldwide and policies to encourage and accommodate it.
Benefits of having a physically active lifestyle
Physically active lifestyle during adolescence can help improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardiometabolic health, and have positive effects on weight. The report further noted the growing evidence of positive impact on cognitive development and socializing, continuing into adulthood.
Exercise an hour a day
International recommendations from WHO and 2018 US guidelines call for adolescents to engage in 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity of moderate-to-vigorous intensity.
The study recommends scaling up effective policies and programs to increase physical activity and to offer opportunities for young people to be active, involving education, urban planning, road safety and others.
The study concluded: “Strong political will and action can address the fact that four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical, and mental health benefits of regular physical activity. Policymakers and stakeholders should be encouraged to act now for the health of this and future young generations.”