U.S. children turn away from exercise in droves in their early teen years after getting much more exercise when they are younger, according to a study spotlighting a factor in the rise of youth obesity.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, documented a steady decline in physical activity in 1,032 children in 10 places around the United States who were followed from ages 9 to 15.
Less than a third got the recommended levels of physical activity at age 15, the study found.
The findings do not bode well for the health of this generation in the decades ahead, the researchers said.
“We’re dealing with an obesity epidemic,” pediatrician Dr. Philip Nader of the University of California at San Diego, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
The researchers had each child in the study, which ran from 2000 to 2006, wear a small device called an accelerometer, which monitors physical activity, for one week at a time when they were ages 9, 11, 12 and 15.
At ages 9 and 11, more than 90 percent of the children met the recommended level of at least an hour per day of moderate or vigorous exercise. But by age 15, only 31 percent hit the recommended level on weekdays — and just 17 percent met the mark on weekends, the researchers found.
Boys did better than girls, but both showed the same pattern of declining activity as they got older.
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