Nine of 10 U.S. High School Students Don’t Get Enough Exercise

About 90 percent of all U.S. high school students aren’t getting enough exercise, a new study said, indicating that a lack of activity is exacerbating the increase in childhood obesity and diabetes.

About half of the students did muscle-strengthening exercises for the recommended three or more days a week, according to the study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Only 15 percent of students engaged in aerobic activity for at least an hour, seven days a week, as recommended. Girls, older students, and obese students were the most likely to fall short of meeting U.S. guidelines.

About 17 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese, triple the rate from the previous generation, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published today’s report. Childhood obesity, which can cause sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, asthma and heart disease, is the target of programs such as the first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” aimed at getting children more active, and more are needed, the study authors wrote.

The study’s results “justify the need to improve and increase the efforts to promote physical activity among youths,” the authors wrote. The writers suggested more partnerships involving schools, communities and the private sector may be required.

Growing Problem

About 151,000 people under the age of 20 are diabetic, and type 2 diabetes is a “sizable and growing” problem among U.S. kids, the CDC said. The agency, along with the National Institutes of Health, is funding a five-year study examining diabetes among American youth.

Students don’t participate in physical activity because they aren’t confident in their abilities, they don’t know what the benefits are, they don’t have the support of parents and peers, and community and school facilities are inadequate, the authors wrote.

The CDC has a goal of getting at least 20 percent of students to engage in aerobic activity for an hour or more every day by 2020.

Only 8.4 percent of female students met the aerobic guidelines, compared with 22 percent of male peers. While 19 percent of ninth graders met requirements, just 13 percent of 12th graders did.

Limiting the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is one of the CDC’s suggestions for reducing childhood obesity. In a separate CDC report today, study authors found that the most commonly-consumed beverages among high school students were water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice.

Almost a quarter of students reported having had soda in the last seven days, 16 percent consumed a sports drink, and 17 percent had other sweetened beverages, such as lemonade.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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