Inactive Teens Likely to Become Sluggish Adults

U.S. high school kids engaged in low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and that tren...

U.S. high school kids engaged in low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and that trend continued into adulthood, according to a national cohort-based study.

The longitudinal review of adolescents from 10th grade to first year post-high school showed that less than 9% of participants met the recommended 60-plus minutes/day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (PA), reported Kaigang Li, PhD, MEd, of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and colleagues, in Pediatrics.

Inactive Teens Likely to Become Sluggish Adults
The authors pointed out that the CDC recommends a minimum of 1 hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day for overall health promotion.
"PA is one of the key behaviors during the period as low engagement of PA at early age is predictive of many negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, etc.," Li told MedPage Today. "Many studies have examined PA among either children or adults, but not many studies have assessed PA of emerging adults who are through the transitional period from adolescence to adulthood."

"This group is unique because they are experiencing big and important changes during this period including mental, psychological, environmental, and contextual changes," he added. "At the same time, this group of young people starts to learn how to handle their lives, behaviors, and lifestyles independently the first time."

The authors identified a subsample of students, recruited from 44 nationally representative schools, who were part of the national NEXT Generation Health Study. They followed 561 participants of which 289 were normal weight and 272 were overweight. In 201, the cohort were age 16.19, and they were followed over a 4-year period, with wave 1 (W1) representing tenth grade, and wave 4 (W4) representing the year following high school completion.

To measure moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels, participants were instructed to wear a accelerometer (ActiGraph GTX 3) on the right hip, which analyzed both length and intensity of exercise. The data was then logged with ActiLife software.

Self-reported surveys were administered to gather data on social support, residential status, school attendance, and employment status. Physical activity planning was measured using surveys given to the participants inquiring on a scale of how often, when, and where they would exercise. After adjusting for participant loss, Li's group analyzed the remaining 522 participants using a linear growth model.
The researchers concluded that while social context had a strong influence, low levels of physical engagement in high school were a significant predictor of low adulthood physical activity levels.
Factors associated with greater moderate-to-vigorous levels into adulthood included:
  • Being male: beta=0.46 (P<0.001)
  • Being Hispanic versus white: beta=0.34 (P<0.001)
  • Planning physical activity at W1-W3: beta= 0.01, beta=0.06, beta=0.08, respectively (P<0.05 for all)
During W4, factors including attending a 4-year college (beta=0.52, P<0.001) and residing on campus (beta=0.37, P<0.001) were also correlated with greater moderate-to-vigorous activity levels.
Factors associated with lowered moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels into adulthood included BMI variability between W1-W4 (beta=-0.02, P<0.01). Being overweight also correlated with lower levels of engagement in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, while participants of normal weight were consistently more active during both weekdays (30 vs 26 min/day, P<0.05) and weekends (22 vs 18 min/day, P<0.05).

Social support did not exhibit a significant relationship with moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels. moderate-to-vigorous physical activity over weekends was significantly higher compared to weekday PA, and this pattern remained consistent throughout all 4 years for all groups.
While the study was successful at examining a wide variety of variables and their relationship with moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels through adulthood, future studies are required to address the limits of confounding variable influence, particularly in terms of self-reported response bias, as well as study design limitations regarding causality.

Li suggested several follow-up studies are necessary, including examining the reasons why first-year college students' moderate-to-vigorous physical activity engagement did not increase, or got worse, even thought universities usually have more accessible physical activity facilities and walkable places. Also, what efforts should universities make to motivate and mobilize students to use the facilities to engage in more physical activity.

He also recommended examining what high schools and parents are doing to help youth manage their time, and form and maintain their health habits including physical activity, before they leave home for college.


This Article first appeared on medpagetoday, you can see the original article by clicking here.

The study was funded by the NIH, and supported by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National, Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Li and co-authors disclosed no relevant relationships with industry.

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