| Nov 17, 2016
By Paul Branks, Vice President of Communications and Media Advocacy
American College of Sports Medicine
The National Physical Activity Plan Alliance released its updated “United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth” on Wednesday, and the results were disappointing. The report says three quarters of children in the United States are currently not meeting physical activity recommendations, putting them at increased risk for future obesity, diabetes and related chronic illness.
The report only confirms what ACSM already knew: As a society, profession and organization, much more needs to be done. ACSM recognized these challenges years ago, and is doing its part to address them. Our Strategic Health Initiatives on Obesity and Youth Sports and Health, Health Policy and Science Committee, and partnerships with organizations such as the National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute and Aspen Institute’s Project Play are just a few examples of how ACSM is actively promoting physical activity and its benefits among youth.
Still, challenges remain. According to the report, only 21.6 percent of children ages 6-19 meet U.S. physical activity guidelines. Nearly 63 percent of children are exceeding sedentary behavior guidelines, which suggest no more than two hours of screen time per day. Less than 13 percent of children walk or ride their bike to school, a habit that has been associated with lower odds of obesity among children. The report does show an improvement in the number of youth who are participating on at least one sports team, but shows a significant gender disparity with more boys participating than girls.
ACSM knows that physical activity plays a major role in promoting children’s health. Further, it helps ensure that our children become active, fit and healthy adults as well. As an organizational partner of the alliance, we support the National Physical Activity Plan because it lays out a strategy for increasing the physical activity level of all segments of our population, children and youth included.
Based on the findings, four key recommendations to increase physical activity among youth were included in the report, and we encourage you to be an advocate for change in these areas:
- Schools should work to increase physical activity opportunities among youth and should be a key part of a national strategy to increase physical activity.
- Preschool and childcare centers should enhance physical activity.
- To advance efforts to increase physical activity among youth, key research gaps should be addressed.
- Changes involving the built environment (such as safe outdoor and indoor recreation spaces) and similar sectors are promising, but need additional work.
You can download the US Report Card from the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance website (http://physicalactivityplan.org/projects/ reportcard.html).