Health Care

What keeps Indian adolescents less physically active

What keeps Indian adolescents less physically active”

In its first ever report on global trends for adolescent physical activity, the United Nations health agency stressed that urgent action was needed to get teens off their screens and moving more.

Insufficient physical activity among teenagers has made them more vulnerable to heart diseases, as a recent study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that more than 80% of school-going adolescents between the ages of 11-17 do not spend even an hour on any physical activity.

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They show that 85% of girls and 78% of boys were not meeting current physical activity recommendations, which state that young people should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise per day.

In an effort to evaluate prevalence and trends of physical activity among adolescents, investigators performed a cross-sectional analysis of 298 World Health Organization and other school-based surveys across 146 countries including the United States and Canada.

Some of the lowest levels of insufficient activity in boys were found in Bangladesh, India and the US.

In 2016, 90% or more of girls in 27 countries did not have sufficient levels of activity.

The difference between the amount of exercise between boys and girls was greater than 10 per cent in nearly a third of countries in 2016, and this trend became more pronounced in nearly three-quarters of nations surveyed between 2001 and 2016.

Being physically active as a child can have benefits that last into adulthood, including improved cardiorespiratory health, muscular fitness, and bone strength.

Based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students - the research found that across all 146 countries studied between 2001-2016, girls were less active than boys in all but four (Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia).

If the trends found by the study continue, the global target of a 15 percent relative reduction in insufficient physical activity - a goal set by all countries at the World Health Assembly previous year - would be challenging to achieve, warned the WHO.

No pattern was observed between country income group and insufficient physical activity. The biggest gaps were in the United States and Ireland, at more than 15 percentage points. As of now, the figure stands at 78% for boys, but there is no change over time in girls.

"Four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical and mental health benefits of regular physical activity", said Fiona Bull, a specialist in activity and health and a co-author of the work. She is director of the Centre for Built Environment and Health at the University of Western Australia and president of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health.

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