Otago adolescents need to get more active, study says

Parents of lazy teenagers now have the backing of Otago research to support them as they urge their idle adolescents to get up off the couch.

A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today found only a third of Otago teenagers exercised enough to meet recommended guidelines for daily physical activity.

Researchers asked 377 school pupils in both rural and urban Otago to wear a device for seven days, which recorded time spent in light, moderate or vigorous exercise or whether they were sedentary.

Not counting sleeping, southern youngsters spent an average of nine and a-half hours in stationary pursuits.

Researchers found a marked difference between boys — who were more likely to play organised sport or walk or cycle to school — and girls, and also that young people in rural or semi-rural areas were more likely to exercise than city kids.

Just 35% of the Otago youths met the physical activity guideline of a solid hour of exercise daily, broadly in line with international studies, a group of scientists including University of Otago researchers found.

Local lazybones also tended to be even more idle at the weekends.

"If these adolescents as a group were to increase their daily physical activity by six minutes they would meet the guidelines," the article said.

"This seems like an achievable public health target ... future interventions should focus on reducing sedentary time by reducing recreational screen time and encouraging outdoor activities."

The study did not record what the young people were doing while inactive, but said even that small increase in physical activity would improve cardiovascular fitness, strength and endurance, and help prevent disease.

"Future initiatives to increase physical activity among New Zealand adolescents should focus on facilitating active transport to school through initiatives such as creating safe walking and cycling routes to school, promoting inclusive sport participation, and increasing peer and family support for physical activity."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

 

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