Teenagers are just as inactive as the elderly

19 June 2017

"By age 19, they are comparable to a 60-year-old."

Teenagers have the same activity levels as pensioners, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore came to their conclusion from looking at data included in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003-2004 and 2005-2006. Over 12,000 participants were monitored via tracking devices for seven days in a row, only taking the gadgets off while washing or sleeping.

Five different age groups were identified; six to 11 years old, 12 to 19 years old, 20 to 29 years old, 31 to 59 years old and older adults aged 60 to 84. Fifty-one percent of participants were female.

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Results showed that daily recommended guidelines for activity were not being met, with 75 percent of the female adolescents and over 50 percent of the males not making it to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous movement.

Meanwhile, 50 percent of girls and 25 percent of boys in the youngest age group failed to match the number.

"Activity levels at the end of adolescence were alarmingly low, and by age 19, they were comparable to 60-year-olds," said senior author Professor Vadim Zipunnikov. "For school-age children, the primary window for activity was the afternoon between two and six P.M. So the big question is how do we modify daily schedules, in schools, for example, to be more conducive to increasing physical activity?"

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Overall, men showed higher levels of activity than their female counterparts, though in the subjects aged 60 and over the males proved to be more sedentary than women.

To change these shocking figures, Professor Zipunnikov suggests health organisations create campaigns which encourage physical activity at different times of day and also stress the importance of lower-intensity exercises to reduce inactivity.

Findings have been published in journal Preventive Medicine.

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