The first ever global trends for adolescent insufficient physical activity show that urgent action is needed to increase physical activity levels in girls and boys aged 11 to 17 years. The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal and produced by researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO), finds that more than 80% of school-going adolescents globally did not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day – including 85% of girls and 78% of boys.
The study – which is based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students – finds that across all 146 countries studied between 2001-2016 girls were less active than boys in all but four (Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia).
The difference in the proportion of boys and girls meeting the recommendations was greater than 10 percentage points in almost one in three countries in 2016 (29%, 43 of 146 countries), with the biggest gaps seen in the United States of America and Ireland (more than 15 percentage points). Most countries in the study (73%, 107 of 146) saw this gender gap widen between 2001-2016.
“Countries must develop or update their policies and allocate the necessary resources to increase physical activity,” says Dr Bull. “Policies should increase all forms of physical activity, including through physical education that develops physical literacy, more sports, active play and recreation opportunities – as well as providing safe environments so young people can walk and cycle independently. Comprehensive action requires engagement with multiple sectors and stakeholders, including schools, families, sport and recreation providers, urban planners, and city and community leaders.”