September 8, 2016 by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute  
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Physical Activity Level Must Increase In Adolescents
by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute

Tid Bits of Info.

  • Adolescents spend approximately 40% of their waking hours at school but only move at a moderate to vigorous activity level approximately 5% of those hours.
  • Adolescents spend nearly 30% of their waking hours at home and only move at a moderate to vigorous level approximately 5% of those hours.
  • It is estimated that in the past 20 years, obesity in adolescents has risen from 5% to > 20%.
  • Approximately 20% of children and adolescents are obese and the sequellae of health issues associated with obesity has caused nearly 300,000 deaths per year.
  • Strength training 2-3x per week is all that is needed to maintain adequate muscular strength and control of an involved joint.
  • Seek the advice and treatment of a healthcare provider including Physical Therapist to get ideas of living a healthier more active lifestyle.

Adolescents spend most of their day sitting in class at school. In other words, most of their day is sedentary. Moderate and vigorous activities (activities that “burn 3-6x as much energy compared to the sedentary rate) account for a very small portion of their day.  Lack of activity has been linked with obesity and a variety of health issues.

Physical activity at school has actually been decreasing! Gym classes and recess have been eliminated or shortened in length to extend the time in the classroom to promote cerebral learning.  There is a direct link between inactivity and a host of physical problems that people of all ages can acquire and children are not spared.  Cardiovascular conditions, onset of type II diabetes, obesity and numerous orthopaedic conditions are just a few of the most common health issues that are easily linked to a sedentary lifestyle.

The First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, made one of her main initiatives while she was in Washington, DC to encourage more activity in children.  She created the “Let’s Move” program, motivating our youth and people of all ages to live a healthier more active lifestyle.  The program asks and suggests that people, including our school age children, perform moderate to vigorous activities for 60 minutes per day.   That does not seem like a lot to ask considering most people are awake for a minimum of 16 hours and that number is probably not accurate for the vast majority of the population due to the simple fact that many people do not sleep a total of 8 hours per night (the minimum amount recommended for everyone!).

A recent study which used GPS technology to track the activity levels and “whereabouts” of nearly 600 adolescents found that they spent approximately 40% of their waking hours in school but less than 5% of that time was performing moderate to vigorous activity.  The adolescent spends most of their day at school, but most of the time they are not participating at a moderate to vigorous activity level.  The simple answer is to incorporate specific classes that would “force” the adolescent to be more active. In class activities could help to stimulate more moderate and vigorous activity level.  The shift away from these types of classes has attributed to a more sedentary population of youth and most likely will adversely impact the health of that population.

Healthcare professionals must be more active in their recommendations and advocacy of living a more active lifestyle regardless of age.  Too many people assume that our youth are healthy because they are young.  Unfortunately, some of our youth are severely deconditioned and are setting themselves up for a lifetime of healthcare issues.

Physical Therapists can be advocates of a healthier lifestyle and help every patient transition to a healthier way of life.  Education is a must and incorporating some kind of moderate to vigorous activity into their treatment protocol regardless of their condition could help to motivate that patient.   Obviously, the patient must be physically able to perform some type of moderate to vigorous activity but all too often the patient is treated for a specific injured body part and the body as a whole is forgotten.  If you have been very inactive recently or during your lifetime, it is not too late to change and experience the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle.  You will be more energetic, possibly lose weight, sleep and concentrate better, have a better sex life, avoid numerous orthopaedic conditions, reduce your chances of developing type II diabetes and most cardiovascular conditions and reduce the stress levels in your life.

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Let’s Move has been a great initiative and will hopefully continue regardless of whom is in office in Washington, DC.  The simple fact that our population, including our children, is too sedentary which can lead to a host of healthcare issues.  There is a solution and everyone must promote to themselves and everyone around them that our population as a whole must become more active. Attempting to move at a moderate to vigorous level for 60 minutes per day does not seem to be too much to ask!

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