Remember the days when you were glued to the TV or playing video games and your mom came in to say, "Turn that off and go play outside!"?
Well, it appears today's young adults didn't receive those same admonishments during their youth. A new study reveals that activity levels of 19 year olds is on par with that of a 60 year old.
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Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted a study involving 12,529 Americans (49% men, 51% women) between the ages of 6 and 85. The goal was to document how physical activity changes over the course of a lifetime.
Test subjects wore accelerometers. These device track movement - all forms of movement - not just exercise. Subjects were monitored for a period of one week.
More specifically, accelerometers measured how long participants were sedentary or performing light, moderate, or vigorous activity. The only time the accelerometers were removed was for bathing and sleeping at night.
Subjects were divided into five age groups for the purposes of the study:
- Children: 6 to 11
- Adolescents: 12 to 19
- Young Adults: 20 to 29
- Middle Age Adults: 31 to 59
- Older Adults: 60 to 84
Unsurprisingly, 6 year olds showed the highest level of physical activity. However, what astonished researchers was the fact that activity levels declined more sharply than expected beginning in elementary school and continuing through middle school and high school. This culminated in researchers noting that the average 19 year old is as sedentary as a 60-year-old.
One of the few bright spots of the study was the fact that physical activity seems to increase after the age of 20, but, beginning around age 35, activity levels begin to decline yet again into older adulthood.
Other findings in the study, published in the journal of Preventative Medicine, documented when activity was highest and lowest each day, differences across age groups and between men and women. Additionally, across all ages, men were more active than women, especially in the area of high-intensity activity, but men experienced a much sharper decline in physical activity after midlife adulthood than women.
After the age of 60, women had greater light intensity activity levels than men.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day for children ages 5 to 17 years. Yet the new study found that over 25% of boys and 50% of girls between 6 to 11 and over 50% of male adolescents and 75% of female adolescents ages 12 to 19 did not meet the WHO minimum physical activity recommendation.
Vadim Zipunnikov, one of the researchers conducting the study, remarked:
"The goal of campaigns aimed at increasing physical activity has focused on increasing higher-intensity exercise. Our study suggests that these efforts should consider time of day and also focus on increasing lower-intensity physical activity and reducing inactivity."
How do you feel about these latest findings? Are you more active now than when you were a teenager? What are some measures we can employ to get our youth moving more?
Leave us a comment with your thoughts!
Vijay R. Varma, Debangan Dey, Andrew Leroux, Junrui Di, Jacek Urbanek, Luo Xiao, Vadim Zipunnikov. Re-evaluating the effect of age on physical activity over the lifespan. Preventive Medicine, 2017; 101: 102 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.05.030