Despite mounting concerns over childhood obesity and inactivity-related health issues, kids are still not meeting national recommendations for daily exercise, say researchers from Tufts University.

In a study that included students from 13 New England elementary schools, scientists measured accelerometer data from 453 3rd–5th graders for 7 days. The goal was to gain perspective on student activity levels in school, at home and on weekends. Each participant’s weight was also measured.

Only 15% of the students achieved an average of 60 minutes of daily exercise—the current recommended amount for this population. Just 8% met the recommended 30 minutes of in-school moderate-to-vigorous exercise. Overweight and obese students, who accounted for 30.5% of the study population, were less active than normal or underweight students. And mirroring many previous studies, girls were less likely to exercise than boys; only 8% and 2% of girls achieved daily and school-time recommendations, respectively.

“We have to find ways to increase activity levels, especially given that few states mandate and provide opportunities for children to achieve the [Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine] recommendation of 30 minutes of school-time moderate-to-vigorous physical activity,” said study senior author Jennifer Sacheck, PhD, in a Tuft’s press release. “In fact, many schools are cutting back on and even eliminating physical education and recess time.”

The report added that schools must recognize the need for activity of all intensities in order to reach a wider cross section of students.

The study was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (2016; 13, 39).

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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