Four in five teens do not exercise enough: WHO

Some 81 per cent of students aged 11 to 17 around the world have low levels of physical activity, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study.

This is the most ambitious study to date, covering 1.6 million young people in 146 countries.

The researchers analyzed the level of physical activity of adolescents attending school between 2001 and 2016.

It appears that :

  • the level of activity of young people all over the world is very low;
  • girls are more inactive than boys.

WHO researchers have found no clear link between a country’s income level and the lack of physical activity of teens.

They note, however, some differences by region.

For example, adolescents in the high-income Asia-Pacific region (Brunei, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore) have the worst rates of physical inactivity, while those in South Asia and Western countries have the worst rates of physical inactivity. high income are the least inactive.

In 142 of the 146 countries surveyed, girls are the most inactive.

The inactivity rate of girls reached or exceeded 90% in 27 countries in 2016. In the case of boys, only two countries were in this situation (the Philippines and South Korea).

What explains such a low activity rate? This is the importance given to studies , says Juana Willimsen, a physical activity advisor to WHO.

In some countries, she says, physical education classes are being cut so that teenagers can spend more time on subjects like maths or languages. And even after school hours, young people continue to study with tutors .

WHO recommends that young people do at least one hour of intense to moderate physical activity each day. In addition to organized sport, the use of active modes of transportation, such as walking and cycling, housework and free games are also counted.

What about us?

Canada is not one of the worst students: Canada ranks 11th among the least inactive, with an average of 76.3% of youth who do at least one hour of physical activity a day.

The inactivity rate for boys has improved compared to 2001, but the situation of girls is stagnating.

An increasingly sedentary society

The low participation rates of high school students can also be explained, in part, by the end of active transportation to get to school, says Jean Lemoyne, professor in the Department of Physical Activity Sciences at the University. from Quebec to Trois-Rivières (UQTR).

Since secondary schools are usually farther away from home, they use school transportation rather than walking, as they could in elementary school.

In addition, a significant proportion of young people are abandoning the organized sports they enjoyed at the elementary level and practicing almost no more free activities enjoyed by children, such as simply playing in the park.

These two factors combined mean that the level of physical activity of adolescents declines.

Jean Lemoyne, professor at UQTR

It is urgent to put in place a global action to counter this phenomenon, especially since it is during adolescence that establish the pillars of good health , says Willimsen.

Much work remains to be done to achieve WHO’s goal of a 15 per cent increase in the rate of physical activity by 2030.

It should be noted that the data were collected in the classes with schoolchildren. However, in developing countries, these are far from representing the majority. While in high-income countries, 6% of adolescents do not attend secondary school, 59% of them are in low-income countries.

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