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School Is Where Teens Get Exercise, But It's Not Enough, Study Says

Even though adolescents spend less than 5 percent of their time at school engaging in physical activity, according to a new study, such time accounts for almost half of their overall exercise, and was still 20 minutes than the amount experts recommend.

Researchers looked at data from 549 healthy adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16 in Baltimore, Md., and Seattle, Wash., who wore accelerometer and global positioning system trackers during waking hours at home, at school, in their neighborhoods and other locations.

They found that adolescents averaged 39 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity across all locations, which placed them among the estimated 92 percent of U.S. youths who don't get the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended for healthy development and obesity prevention.

More than 42 percent of the children's overall physical activity took place at school, but it represented just 4.8 percent of their time there. Children were much more likely to be active when they were outdoors near their homes or schools, according to the study, but they did not spend a lot of time outside in their neighborhood.

The study's authors urge physicians and parents to advocate for safer and more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that make playing outside and walking to school easier. They also recommend working with school districts to implement a comprehensive school physical activity program that emphasizes physical education, recess, classroom exercise and active before- and after-school programs.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

Carlson JA, et al. Locations of Physical Activity as Assessed by GPS in Young Adolescents. Pediatrics 2016;137(1):e20152430; doi:10.1542/peds.2015-2430 (published online Dec. 8).