Physical Activity Report Card Shows There's Work to Be Done
At a Congressional Fitness Caucus briefing, the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) Alliance in collaboration with its organizational partner, the American College of Sports Medicine, released the first United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, and the 2014 grades are less than stellar.
"Physical activity levels in American youth fall far below the recommended level, with only about one-fourth of children aged 6 to 15 meeting the current guideline of 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day," said Russ Pate, Ph.D., chairman of the NPAP Alliance and professor in the Department of Exercise Science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. "Fifty percent of waking hours are spent in sedentary activity for children and youth, and this percentage rises with age."
Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., chairman of the 2014 Report Card Research Advisory Committee, and Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, said the primary goal of the Report Card is to assess levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviors in American children and youth, facilitators and barriers for physical activity and related health outcomes. "We hope the Report Card will galvanize researchers, health professionals, community members and policy makers across the U.S. to improve our children's physical activity opportunities, which will improve health, prevent disease and disability, and enhance quality of life," he said.
The key indicators that were evaluated and graded as part of the U.S. Report Card include:
- Overall Physical Activity: D-
- Sedentary Behaviors: D
- Active Transportation: F
- Organized Sport Participation: C-
- Active Play: Incomplete
- Health-Related Fitness: Incomplete
- Family and Peers: Incomplete
- School: C-
- Community and the Built Environment: B-
- Government Strategies and Investments: Incomplete
"This report illustrates the immediate need for a comprehensive action plan to promote physical fitness for our young people," said Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Fitness Caucus co-chair. "It's hard to develop a healthy mind without a healthy body, and encouraging healthy habits and routines early in life is something we all can do to help our kids succeed in school and their communities. That's why I'm working on a bipartisan basis with Congressman [Aaron] Schock (R-Ill.) and others to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our children."
William Dexter, M.D., president of ACSM and director of the Sports Medicine Program at Maine Medical Center—representing Designed to Move—offered some constructive calls to action for policymakers. Dexter emphasized that government has an important role to play in surveillance, research and other policies. Designed to Move is a framework for action supported by public, private and civil sector organizations dedicated to ending the epidemic of physical inactivity.
"Another important opportunity for improving physical activity grades in the U.S. is the role that physicians can play in encouraging kids and families to be more physically active," Dexter said. "ACSM launched a program called Exercise Is Medicine with the American Medical Association, and it encourages doctors to discuss physical activity during every patient visit. As a physician, I can tell you that I make physical activity an important part of my practice, and more and more doctors are going to be prescribing healthy and enjoyable physical activity for all Americans, and especially our youth."
Rep. Schock shared his perspective, saying, "The findings in the first-ever national Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth are deeply troubling, but we may have caught ourselves in enough time to change course. America's children deserve a future that is free from preventable chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The Report Card illustrates the need to promote physical fitness among America's youth, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and our nonprofit allies on this issue to make sure next year's report shows measured progress among every key indicator."
Data from multiple nationally representative surveys were used to provide a comprehensive evaluation of physical activity for children and youth. The grades for the Report Card were assigned by the Report Card Research Advisory Committee using the most recent data available with consideration of published scientific literature and reports. The Report Card is the first is a historic series of national physical activity report cards in countries around the world that will be updated annually, providing an unprecedented global benchmark using a common methodology on this pivotal public health issue.