GENEVA, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday that urgent action is needed to increase physical activity levels in girls and boys aged 11 to 17 years worldwide, or else their current and future health would be compromised.
Based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students, more than 80 percent of school-going adolescents globally, including 85 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys, did not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day, according to the latest WHO study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle during adolescence include improved cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardio-metabolic health, and positive effects on weight. There is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socializing, with current evidence suggesting that many of these benefits continue into adulthood, the WHO said.
To achieve these benefits, the WHO recommends for adolescents to do moderate or vigorous physical activity for an hour or more each day, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education and planned exercise.
To improve the situation, the study recommends that countries urgently scale up any known effective policies and programs to increase physical activity in adolescents, and also take multi-sectoral action to offer opportunities for young people to be active, involving education, urban planning, road safety and others.
"The study highlights that young people have the right to play and should be provided with the opportunities to realize their right to physical and mental health and well-being," said co-author Dr. Fiona Bull with the WHO.
"Strong political will and action can address the fact that four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical and mental health benefits of regular physical activity. Policy makers and stakeholders should be encouraged to act now for the health of this and future young generations," she added.
The study also highlights the trend of girls being less active than boys, calling on governments to identify and address the many causes and inequities that can perpetuate the gender differences.
"Countries must develop or update their policies and allocate the necessary resources to increase physical activity," said Dr. Bull. "Comprehensive action requires engagement with multiple sectors and stakeholders, including schools, families, sport and recreation providers, urban planners, and city and community leaders."