Couch potato nation: 3 in 4 U.S. teens don’t get enough exercise

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ATHENS, Ga. — Troubling new research reports that 75 percent of American teens aren’t getting enough exercise. Notably, researchers from the University of Georgia say lack of exercise is especially common among teen girls.

On a more positive note, study authors add that a student’s school environment can go a long way toward fostering more physical activity. According to the team, schools help shape behaviors in students, for better or worse, such as dietary habits and exercise frequency.

“The length of recess, physical facilities and social environments at schools have been found to affect physical activity among students,” says lead study author Janani R. Thapa, an associate professor of health policy and management at UGA’s College of Public Health, in a university release.

The state of Georgia recently put policies and programs in place intended to boost physical activity across K-12 schools. Prof. Thapa is one of the lead evaluators of these programs.

“Over time, the state has observed declining levels of physical activity among all adolescents, but the rate is higher among female middle and high school students,” she explains.

Bullying affects how much exercise kids get

The research team suspected that school climate plays a heavy role in determining how comfortable students feel playing sports or participating in other physical activities. The term “school climate” refers to factors including social support, safety, and bullying.

“We do not know much about the role of school climate on physical activity,” Prof. Thapa explains. “There must have been barriers that were faced by certain groups of students. Hence, we wanted to investigate the difference by gender.”

These findings are based on a statewide survey encompassing over 360,000 Georgia high school students. Researchers asked each teen about their exercise habits and overall school climate. More specifically, the data included information on school connectedness, adult social support, cultural acceptance, physical environment, school safety, peer victimization (bullying), school support environment, and peer social support.

Female teens reported less physical activity (35%) than their male classmates (57%). Notably, physical activity frequency also declined from grade to grade (from 9th to 12th grades) among both genders.

Despite that trend, when a school’s climate was particularly conducive to exercise, both male and female students generally ended up working out more.

Bullying stood out as a factor worth mentioning. Teen girls who experienced bullying were more likely to exercise, but the opposite held true for bullied boys. Study authors speculate this may be related to gender fitness stereotypes.

“For example, female students who are active in sports and physically active may not fit the gender norm and hence may face bullying,” Prof. Thapa concludes.

The study is published in the Journal of Adolescence.

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John Anderer

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  1. This is very sad, but not surprising. When you see families where everyone, including the under 10 years old, have a smartphone; when families can’t put food on the table, but wouldn’t dare miss that internet or cable bill payment. Our neighborhoods are silent these days; hardly any noise of swim parties, bikes on the street, etc. Where are the kids? They’re inside, playing on the phones, video games, watching TV. And we wonder why a generation from now we’ll have even more obesity amongst.

    1. We also won’t weather the chance of kidnapping, we are aware of the numbers and refuse to let our children become one of those statistics by roaming the streets sun up to sun down as I did as a child. My theory is that the internet emboldened the creeps by allowing them to join up with like minded individuals who then justify their own demented tendencies.

  2. When I was a kid, we played baseball, football, and sometimes hockey for entertainment.

    Now, all kids do is play video games.

    1. we played street hockey until we couldnt see anymore and then we played some more….kids today are screwed

  3. The Pentagon says today’s young people of military age are ineligible for service due to: 1) obesity and poor health; 2) drug and alcohol addiction; 3) psychiatric conditions; 4) criminal behavior; 5) poor education and lack of cognitive skills required by the military. This is what modern parenting and public schools have done.

  4. The Pentagon says 78% of today’s young people of military age are ineligible for service due to: 1) obesity and poor health; 2) drug and alcohol addiction; 3) psychiatric conditions; 4) criminal behavior; 5) poor education and lack of cognitive skills required by the military. This is what modern parenting and public schools have done.

  5. I grew up in Vermont in the 70’s, and I remember being outdoors all the time, especially in the summer. We played pickup baseball at the elementary school field all the time(you never see that these days). Kids rode bikes everywhere, often with a baseball glove hanging off the handle. In winter, we skied and also skated on whatever natural ice could we find(my town didn’t have a rink yet). I’m glad I didn’t grow up in such an electronic world, with 1,000 channels and every device imaginable. It would likely not have been good for my health.

  6. This is quite the indictment of “modern” society, lack of parenting & government schools. Outdoor &/or physical activity should be mandatory for youngsters…via their parents & at school (PE, etc.). As a society (as well), we should promote physical activity & standards…especially for the youth.

  7. The US is headed down the same road as all the other dominant cultures and for a lot of the same reasons. Citizens of the Greek, Roman, and various European nations who were dominant for periods of time grew lazy, decadent. They took their position for granted and became incapable of defending it or themselves. The Greeks hired the Spartans, The Romans the Huns and the British hired foreign mercenaries to defend themselves. Who will America hire when we cannot find enough young Americans fit and capable of defending our freedoms.

    God help America.

    1. From what I see, America uses those in poverty with the promise of financial stability to keep the ranks filled. Any young person I see with a brand new sports car is likely serving in the local air force base. It also has more guns than any other nation. Want to see rednecks and gangstas unite? Fighting a common enemy would do just that. Not exactly the same situation as those in history.

  8. The country is not worth defending anyway. Freedom and small government are gone. We are governed by crooks who spend more and more to buy votes and enrich themselves. The FBI, CIA, IRS are all corrupt and Congress is a den of thieves. Do not send your children to defend these crooks. China and Russia are no worse than we are.

  9. I remember being in fourth grade when they told us we were no longer allowed to have recess. They told us we didn’t need it and complained about how antsy we were in school. We were only allowed outside and NOT allowed to play on the jungle gym during gym class. And they wonder why kids don’t get enough exercise.

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