Kids’ Inactivity: A Global Crisis

Is it time for a worldwide playtime to increase physical activity among children?

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Mar 13, 2019

Children worldwide, in both developed and developing nations, are not engaging in enough physical activity, according to research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health (2018; 15 [S251]). The report evaluated global trends using data from 49 countries across six continents. Nations with the most success in supporting active children are Slovenia, Japan and Denmark; the least successful nations are Ethiopia, Venezuela and China.

“Global trends, including excessive screen time, are contributing to a generation of inactive children and putting them on a dangerous path,” said study author Mark Tremblay, PhD, director of healthy active living and obesity research at the University of Ottawa, Ontario. “We have a collective responsibility to change this because inactive children are at risk for adverse physical, mental, social and cognitive health problems.”

Countries with the most active youth have cultural norms that support physical activity as a way of life, such as widespread participation in organized sports or physical activity programs, encouragement of active play, and active transportation—meaning that children have to walk, run, bike or use other active means to go to and from places such as school or recreational settings. Leading contributors to inactivity include modern digital lifestyles, growing urbanization and increased automation.

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at

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