Only a Quarter of 12- to 15-Year-Olds Engage in Moderate Physical Activity

In 2012, only one-fourth of children aged 12 to 15 years old engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least one hour daily, with boys being slightly more engaged than girls.

A new report on physical activity among US children aged 12 to 15 years old found that only about one-fourth (24.8%) engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least one hour daily in 2012. The activity occurred both in school and outside of school. Only 7.6% did not engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 60 minutes on any day of the week.

Among boys, 27% engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for 60 minutes daily, compared with 22.5% of girls. Differences between boys and girls were not statistically significant.

The data were from the combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey, 2012, published by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), January 2014 in NCHS Data Brief: Physical Activity in the U.S. Youth Aged 12-15 Years, 2012. The study was led by Tala Fakhouri, PhD, MPH.

More than half of the boys surveyed and about half of the girls reported engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes on five days or more each week. The low numbers of children participating in physical activity suggests that the nation’s teens are at risk for poor physical and mental health because of their inactive lifestyles. The finding comes at a time when there is concern about increasing child obesity and programs that promote greater activity levels among children.

A total of 6.4% of boys and 8.7% of girls, respectively, did not engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on any day of the week. As children’s weight status increased, the percentage of male youth who were physically active for at least 60 minutes a day decreased.

The most common types of activities among boys were basketball and running. Among girls, the most common types of activities were running and walking.