That's because the physical activity picture worsens rather than improves as teens make the transition into young adulthood, UNC researchers found in the largest national study of changes in exercise patterns over time.
Especially needed are efforts to get Hispanic and black girls to become more active, those scientists say.
"In a sample originally representing more than 20 million school-aged youth, we found that only 36 percent achieved five or more sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly," said Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, assistant professor of nutrition at the UNC schools of public health and medicine. "However, of those 36 percent, only a staggering 4.4 percent maintained this level of activity into adulthood.
"Also, across the teenage and adult years, close to half of the respondents spent more time watching TV or playing computer games than recommended."
A report on the research appears in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Besides Gordon-Larsen, who led the study, authors are nutrition graduate student Melissa C. Nelson, and Dr. Barry M. Popkin, professor of nutrition.
"Poor diet and physical inactivity are responsible for roughly 400,000 deaths in the United States each year and may soon become the leading causes of death for Americans," Gordon-Larsen said. "Previous studies at UNC and elsewhere have shown that all major racial and ethnic groups and both sexes get too little physical activity, and black and Hispanic girls face the greatest risk of being significantly overweight or obese and inactive."
In the new research, she and colleagues wanted to concentra
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill