Children not getting enough exercise

Children worldwide are not getting enough physical activity, says the World Health Organization (WHO) in a new report.

The report, the first global estimates of adolescents’ physical activity levels, reveals that more than 80 percent of adolescents ages 11 to 17 were not sufficiently active in 2016. Nations in the Asia-Pacific region had the highest rates of insufficient physical activity, at 89 percent. Lack of physical activity has been identified as a major risk factor in obesity, diabetes, and other health problems.

Irrespective of whether the country was rich or poor, developed or developing, in the northern or southern hemisphere, inactivity appeared widespread among adolescents, said the report. However, one difference in the prevalence of inactivity that the report highlighted was gender — on average, girls were physically less active than boys. The gender difference was again widespread across the world, with surprisingly more than 8 percentage points difference noted in the US, which prides itself as a gender parity bastion.

The report revealed that in the 15 year period from 2001 to 2016, while the percentage of boys getting enough physical activity increased slightly, the percentage of girls stayed the same. Experts say the report points to a global ‘pandemic’ of inactivity that would require a multi-pronged and even a cross-border approach to reverse.

In relation to the high levels of inactivity in so many countries, the decreases noticed in some countries are still relatively small but not insignificant, as it could point to ameliorating actions by the authorities in those countries, including school programs, increased participation in sports, creating new places for activities, and increased awareness of the importance of physical activity through education and media campaigns.

But, sadly, these actions seem to only have reached boys, not girls. To increase activity levels in girls, and close the gender gap, it will be very important to develop strategies that specifically address girls’ physical activity behavior, concludes the WHO report.