KUALA LUMPUR, November 22 – The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report indicating that four in five adolescents worldwide do not get enough physical activity.
“We absolutely need to do more or we will be looking at a very bleak health picture for these adolescents,” study co-author Leanne Riley said, according to Channel News Asia.
The report involved surveys conducted between 2001 and 2016. It covered around 1.6 million students between the ages of 11 and 17 across 146 countries.
According to the report, 81 per cent did not meet the WHO recommendation of at least an hour a day of physical activity such as walking, playing, riding a bike or taking part in organised sports.
The study also indicated that no improvements have been made over the 15-year period it covered.
“We are not seeing any improvements,” Riley said.
The study does not specifically study the reasons for adolescent physical inactivity, but Riley explained that the “electronic revolution … seems to have changed adolescents’ movement patterns and encourages them to sit more, to be less active”.
Other than that, the authors also said that poor infrastructure and insecurity hinder adolescents to walk or bike to school.
The study found that levels of physical inactivity among adolescents were persistently high across all regions and all countries, ranging from 66 per cent in Bangladesh to 94 per cent in South Korea.
“We find a high prevalence pretty much everywhere,” lead author Regina Guthold said, adding that “many, many countries, between 80 and 90 per cent of adolescents (are) not meeting the recommendations for physical activity.”
Only 15 per cent of adolescent girls worldwide get the prescribed amount of physical activity, compared to 22 per cent for boys.
Girls were evidently less active than boys in all but four countries – Afghanistan, Samoa, Tonga and Zambia.
Boys’ level of inactivity decreased from 80 to 78 per cent from 2001 to 2016, but girls remained at 85 per cent during the same period.
In a number of countries, the gender gap appeared to be linked to cultural pressure on girls to stay home and shun sports, as well as concerns over safety when moving about outdoors.