Is Lack of Physical Activity Affecting Teens?

By Amber Keefer
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Most high school teens aren’t getting enough exercise, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2011 survey shows that high school students engage in less physical activity as they get older. Unfortunately, physical inactivity can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes later in life. It also increases the risk for developing asthma, arthritis and certain types of cancer.

Recommended Physical Activity

The Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report recommends that children and teens get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Aerobic activity is particularly important as it increases heart rate. When teens don’t get enough exercise, their hearts have to work harder. Consequently, the heart can wear out sooner. This increases the chances for suffering some form of cardiovascular disease at a younger age.

Level of Physical Activity

Level of physical activity is one of the factors that help determine a person’s cardiovascular health. According to the American Heart Association statistical fact sheet update in 2013, 13.8 percent of teens across the nation responding to the survey reported not participating in more than 60 minutes of physical activity that increased their heart rate on any one of the preceding seven days. Adolescent girls were more likely than boys to report being physically inactive.

Changing Trends

Children and teens who are physically active on a regular basis have more endurance, stronger bones and less body fat, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, they decrease the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes or anxiety and depression. Yet more teens are losing out on the benefits of exercise. In a January 2012 article for "Tulsa World," Dr. Connie Proskovec, a pediatrician who practices in Oklahoma, notes that many kids aren’t getting as much exercise at school and are becoming more sedentary at home.

Effects on Brain

In addition to the health benefits of regular exercise, physical activity can increase your teen’s attention span at school. Consequently, lack of physical activity could be keeping your teen from improving his grades. Fit Teens reports that research shows teens who include aerobic exercise as part of their daily activities have a larger basal ganglia -- the part of the brain that affects attention. Exercise can help your teen process information faster, allowing him to learn more and therefore do better in school. Getting even less than the recommended amount of daily activity can still help improve a student’s academic performance.