American children are not active enough. Photo by LSOphoto / Getty Images.
The report states that girls tend to be less physically active than boys, especially as they reach their later teen years.

U.S. Receives Near-Failing Grade for Children's Fitness, According to NPAPA Report Card

Approximately 35 percent of teenage boys participate in at least one hour of daily physical activity, while only 18 percent of girls do, according to the report. Physical activity also appears to decline as children age and live in high-crime neighborhoods.

American children received a "D-" rating in the latest physical activity report card released by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAPA), which also highlighted discrepancies among age, gender and place of residence.

The report card included the following grades, which contributed to the aggregate "D-" score:

Overall Physical Activity: "D-"
Sedentary Behaviors: "D"
Active Transportation: "D-"
Organized Sport Participation: "C"
Active Play: "INC"
Physical Fitness: "C-"
Family and Peers: "INC"
School: "D-"
Community and Built Environment: "C"

"This report card continues to provide reliable data that helps assess both progress and barriers to physical activity for our children,” Peter T. Katzmarzyk, chair of the NPAPA's Report Card Research Advisory Committee, said in a media release. “Clearly, there is significant work to do in removing existing barriers, but we are encouraged by the progress we’re seeing on multiple fronts.”

The report card evaluates nine indicators of a child’s access to physical activity. This year, the NPAPA found that nearly all school districts have policies requiring schools to meet disabled students' physical activity needs, while 65 percent of schools have mandatory elementary recess. Additionally, 75 percent of children live in a neighborhood with walking paths and 77 percent live in a neighborhood with a playground. The NPAPA also reported that more than 50 percent of children have adequate muscular endurance, as well as have played on an organized sports team in the past year.

The report praised the nearly 75 percent of school districts that require undergraduate- or graduate-level training for newly hired physical education staff.

“While these positive results are encouraging and provide a glimpse into what’s possible, there is no denying that the overall grades for the indicators remain critically low,” Russell Pate, board chair for the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, said in the release. “This report card should generate a renewed sense of urgency to take the action needed for the sake of our children and their future.”

Approximately 35 percent of teenage boys participate in at least one hour of daily physical activity, while only 18 percent of girls do, according to the report. Physical activity also appears to decline as children age. Children between age six and age 11 participate in 88 minutes of daily activity, while adolescents age 12 to age 15 participate in 33 minutes and teens age 16 to age 19 participate in 26 minutes.

Children living in high-crime neighborhoods are less likely to exercise than those living in low-crime neighborhoods, the report states.

To view the complete NPAPA report card, click here.

To review another recent study about the influence of physical activity on children, click here.

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