While promoting physical activity and encouraging people to limit the time they spend watching television are important throughout life, those efforts are critical before adolescence, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill investigation concludes.
That’s because the physical activity picture worsens rather than improves as teens make the transition into young adulthood, UNC researchers found in the largest national study of changes in exercise patterns over time.
Especially needed are efforts to get Hispanic and black girls to become more active, those scientists say. "In a sample originally representing more than 20 million school-aged youth, we found that only 36 percent achieved five or more sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly," said Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC schools of public health and medicine. "However, of those 36 percent, only a staggering 4.4 percent maintained this level of activity into adulthood.
"By the time individuals reach adolescence, most are already not engaging in enough physical activity and spend too much time sitting in front of video screens of one kind or another to meet national recommendations," Gordon-Larsen said. "Thus, interventions must begin before adolescence, and this is particularly true for Hispanic and black girls."
The National Institutes of Health supported the research. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development supported the Add Health study with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies.
David Williamson | EurekAlert!
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