Young people’s mental wellbeing “compromised” by poor activity levels

Young people’s mental health is being “compromised” by insufficient physical activity, a major new study has revealed.

The research, published by the World Health Organisation (WHO), calls for “urgent action” to increase physical activity levels in girls and boys aged 11 to 17.

According to the report, some eight in 10 (80 per cent) adolescents worldwide do not meet the current recommendations of at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.

Across almost all countries, the study also revealed that girls are significantly less active than boys. The gap was particularly prevalent in western countries, including the United States of America and Ireland, the study found.

Commenting on the results, the research authors said current levels of exercise are “compromising” children’s current and future health.

“Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity,” says study author Dr Regina Guthold.

The report authors note that vigorous activity does not only promote good physical health, but a strong mental wellbeing as well.

“There is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socializing. Current evidence suggests that many of these benefits continue into adulthood,” the authors write.

“The study highlights that young people have the right to play and should be provided with the opportunities to realise their right to physical and mental health and wellbeing,” added co-author Dr Fiona Bull.

“Strong political will and action can address the fact that four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical, and mental health benefits of regular physical activity.  Policy makers and stakeholders should be encouraged to act now for the health of this and future young generations.”

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