Think a 1.5 GPA will get you on the honor roll? Neither does the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, whose recently released Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth (.pdf) paints a fairly dismal picture of the state of exercise among kids.
Among the areas analyzed in the report card, the Alliance handed out a B, 2 Cs, 3 Ds, and an F. Rounding up (the Cs were actually C- grades, as were 2 of the 3 Ds), that's a 1.5 GPA. And that doesn't even count the 4 incompletes on the report card.
The group's grades were handed out in 10 areas: overall physical activity, sedentary behaviors, active transportation (the percentage of children who walk or bike to school), organized sport participation, active play, health-related fitness, family and peers, school, community and built environments, and government strategies and investments. "Each grade reflects how well the US is succeeding at providing children and youth opportunities and/or support for physical activity," the report states.
The grades issued were:
Overall physical activity: D-
The report found that roughly 25% of children and youth 6 – 15 engaged in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day. Most of that percentage was borne by children 6 – 11, 42% of whom met the standard. Among youth 12 – 15, that rate dropped to 8%.
Sedentary behaviors: D
On average, 53.5% of US children and youth meet guidelines calling for no more than 2 hours or less of screen time per day, with wide variations in rates among racial groups. The disparity was part of the reason for the low grade, according to the Alliance.
Active Transportation: F
"The vast majority of American children and youth do not travel to school by active means," the report states. Estimates from 2009 put that rate at 12.7%, down more than 35 percentage points from the 47.7% rate in 1969.
Organized sport participation: C-
Although nearly 60% of US children and youth participate in at least 1 organized sports team, gender and ethnic group disparities resulted in a drop in the Alliance grade.
Just over half of US children and youth attend a physical education class during an average school week, with significant disparities among grade levels. High participation in ninth grade (68.1%) dwindles each year of high school until the senior year, where the participation average is 38.5%.
Community and the built environment: B-
A highlight among the grades, access to parks and playgrounds is fairly good, with 84.6% of US children and youth living close to these facilities. The problem, according to the Alliance, is that the access isn't equal across ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
The remaining categories—active play, health-related fitness, family and peers, and government strategies and investments—did not offer sufficient data to issue a grade, according to the Alliance.
The Alliance announced its report card at a briefing held on Capitol Hill April 28. DC Chapter Treasurer Marisa Birkmeier, PT, DPT, PCS, c/NDT, Pediatric Section representative for DC Erin Marie Wentzell, PT, DPT, PCS and staff member Michael Hurlbut, senior congressional affairs specialist, attended the briefing on behalf of APTA. An APTA representative also serves on the board of the Alliance.
APTA has long supported the promotion of physical activity and the value of physical fitness, and has representatives on the practice committee of Exercise is Medicine. The association offers several resources on obesity, including continuing education on childhood obesity, and a prevention and wellness webpage that links to podcasts on the harmful effects of inactivity.
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