A WHO study on exercise in young people draws an overweight generation tied to a screen. In girls, the data is even worse
More than 80% of adolescents who go to school worldwide fail to comply with the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) that they do at least one hour of physical activity a day, a figure that increases among girls (85%) compared to boys (78%). Only one in five young people and adolescents in the world does enough sport.
It is the main conclusion of a study conducted by researchers from the WHO, Imperial College London and the University of Western Australia. The work, published in the journal 'The Lance Child & Adolescent Health', reflects world trends in physical activity with data from 1.6 million adolescents in school aged 11 to 17 years.
The study, which covers 146 countries with information between 2001 and 2016, indicates that girls are less active than boys in all but four countries: Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia.
Worrisome data in girls
The percentage is somewhat lower among boys (78%) but in adolescent girls it reaches 85% and while they have improved two points in 15 years, the percentage among them has not changed one iota.
In both sexes, one of the reasons for this general lack of exercise is, according to the WHO expert Leanna Riley, one of the authors of the study, a technological revolution that "encourages people to sit longer, be less active in general, play more with digital devices, drive more and walk less. "
Another factor, which according to the authors affects girls more than boys, is concerns about the safety of exercising outside, for example, when walking or cycling to school.
Cultural issues, such as the lack of programs to promote sports among girls or the lack of facilities for them (for example, separate changing rooms in sports facilities), could also be behind the worst figures shown by young women and their little improvement with the weather
Low physical activity compromises your current and future health
The difference in the proportion of boys and girls who meet the recommendations for daily physical activity exceeded 10 percentage points in almost one out of every three countries in 2016, specifically in 43 out of 146 (29% of the total), with the greatest imbalances in United States and Ireland (more than 15 percentage points). Most of the nations studied (107 of 146, 73%) saw this gender gap grow between 2001 and 2016.
The authors point out that the levels of lack of physical activity are extremely high and compromise the current and future health of adolescents.
The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle during adolescence include improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardiometabolic health, and positive effects on weight. There is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socialization. Current evidence suggests that many of these benefits continue into adulthood.
Still photo from 2016
The study is based on school surveys on levels of physical activity among adolescents aged 11 to 17 years. The evaluation included time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active housework, walking and biking or other types of active transportation, physical education, and planned exercise.
In 2016, the Philippines was the country with the most insufficient physical activity among boys (93%) and South Korea among girls (97%) and both genders combined (94%). On the contrary, the best percentages correspond to Bangladesh (63% in children, 69% in children and 66% in both sexes).
Spain has slightly better figures than the average but not very positive for that reason (69.8% of young people and 83.8% of adolescents do not exercise enough), while in the Latin American region the numbers are worse (80 % of boys and 89% of girls).
Some of the lowest levels of inactivity among children are in Bangladesh (63%), India (72%) and the United States (64%). Experts believe that in the first two cases they may be due to the strong introduction of national sports such as cricket, and the explanation in the North American country lies in a good physical education in schools, a generalized sports coverage in the media and a good availability. of sports clubs in ice hockey, football, basketball or baseball.
For girls, the lowest levels of insufficient activity were found in Bangladesh and India, due to social factors such as increased domestic chores at home.
Trends between 2001 and 2016
Insufficient physical activity decreased slightly in boys between 2011 and 2016 (from 80% to 78%), but there was little change over time in girls (it remained around 85%).
The countries with the most reductions in physical inactivity among children in the period analyzed are Bangladesh (from 73% to 63%), Singapore (from 78% to 70%), Thailand (from 78% to 70%), Benin (79% to 71%), Ireland (71% to 64%) and the United States (71% to 64%). This was less important among girls, with decreases of two percentage points in Singapore (from 85% to 83%) and increases of one percentage point in Afghanistan (from 87% to 88%).
Concern that girls are less active
Leanne Riley, from the WHO and co-author of the study, considered it "worrisome" that girls are less active than boys, so she advocated creating "more opportunities" in order to "attract and maintain their participation in physical activity during adolescence and adulthood ".
To increase youth physical activity, governments must identify and address the many causes and inequities - social, economic, cultural, technological and environmental - that can perpetuate differences between boys and girls, according to the authors.