There is heightened concern that exercise deficits are contributing to the growing obesity epidemic among the young and the old across the globe.
A new study conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore in the United States found that physical activity, starting at age 35, declined. Young adults after the age of 20 also showed sharp decreases in activity levels.
“Activity levels at the end of adolescence were alarmingly low, and by age 19, they were comparable to 60-year-olds,” says one of the study’s senior authors, Vadim Zipunnikov.
Participants in the study wore tracking devices that measured how much time they were sedentary or engaged in light or moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
Researchers broke down their findings into five age groups: children (ages six to 11); adolescents (ages 12 to 19); young adults (ages 20 to 29); adults at midlife (ages 31 to 59); and older adults (age 60 through age 84).
WHO recommendations not met
The results of the study confirmed that the recommended guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) were not being met. For instance, the WHO recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day for children ages five to 17 years. The study found that more than 25 percent of boys and 50 percent of girls ages six to 11 and more than 50 percent of male and 75 percent of female adolescents ages 12 to 19 had not met the WHO recommendation.
According to Zipunnikov activity levels were alarmingly low. “The big question is how do we modify daily schedules to be more conducive to increasing physical activity?”
Men had higher activity levels than women but after midlife these levels dropped off sharply. Among participants of the study who were 60 years and older males were more sedentary and had lower physical activity levels than females.
Zipunnikov said global fitness campaigns should roll out programmes aimed at increasing physical activity by not only targeting certain age groups but also times of the day with the least activity.