Young people worldwide suffer from a lack of exercise

Young people worldwide suffer from a lack of exercise

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Why do young people get less and less exercise?

Most teenagers don't get enough exercise. The time spent in front of screens of laptops, TVs, smartphones and similar devices seems to be to blame for this. Girls seem to be more affected than boys.

In the current study by the World Health Organization WHO it was found that long screen times of adolescents are associated with a lack of exercise and are therefore associated with a future health risk. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health".

A lack of exercise endangers health

Children and teenagers often spend far too much time in front of the screens of computers, televisions and other devices. The increasing screen time thus replaces valuable time that could be used for movement. In later life, this can endanger the health of the people concerned.

Over 75 percent of the children exercise far too little

The new study found that 85 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys did not meet the current recommendation of at least one hour of physical activity a day. To arrive at this result, the researchers used data from 1.6 million school-aged adolescents aged 11 to 17 years.

Health benefits from adequate exercise

The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle in adolescence include improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, healthier bones, improved cardiometabolic health and positive effects on body weight. There is also increasing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and social behavior. Many of these benefits appear to continue into adulthood.

Adolescents should be physically active for at least one hour a day

To achieve the above benefits, WHO recommends adolescents to do moderate or strong physical activity for an hour or more each day. Unfortunately, most young people do not follow these instructions. It is therefore imperative that known effective strategies and programs to increase physical activity in adolescents are promoted.

Children have the right to play

"The study underlines that young people should have the right to play and should be given the opportunity to exercise their right to physical and mental health and well-being," says study author Dr. Fiona Bull of the World Health Organization in a press release.

Slight decrease in inadequate activity in boys

Globally, the prevalence of inadequate physical activity among boys decreased slightly between 2001 and 2016 (from 80 percent to 78 percent), but there was no change in girls over the same period (remaining at around 85 percent).

Global goals not achieved

The researchers found that if ongoing trends continue, the global goal of a relative 15 percent reduction in inadequate physical activity will not be achieved. This goal was agreed by all countries at the 2018 World Health Assembly.

It is imperative that girls' activity be encouraged

"The trend that girls are less active than boys is worrying," says study author Dr. Leanne Riley from the World Health Organization. "More opportunities are needed to meet the needs and interests of girls, to increase and maintain their participation in physical activities through puberty into adulthood," added the expert.

Governments have to act

To increase physical activity among young people, governments need to identify and address the many causes and inequalities (social, economic, cultural, technological, and environmental) that the differences in physical activity could cause in boys and girls. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Regina Guthold, Gretchen A Stevens, Leanne M Riley, Fiona C Bull: Global trends in insufficient physical activity among adolescents: a pooled analysis of 298 population-based surveys with 1 ยท 6 million participants, in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health (query: 11/22/2019), The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health
  • New WHO-led study says majority of adolescents worldwide are not sufficiently physically active, putting their current and future health at risk, World Health Organization (query: 22.11.2019), WHO

Video: Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Exercise (January 2023).