Getting youth to move more will require concentrated effort by parents and medical, education communities

April 12, 2013

Exercise and fitness expert Dr. Russ Pate of the Arnold School of Public Health says dramatic steps are necessary if the nation is to curb a continuing decline in physical activity among youth.

Pate is a member of the committee for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, which recently released results of a survey that found only 29 percent of high school students participated in 60 or more minutes a day of physical activity on each of the seven days prior to the survey.

The government’s physical activity guidelines call for at least one hour of activity for children and teens. But the survey found that children and teens fall short of this goal. Boys (38 percent) were more likely than girls (19 percent) to meet the guidelines.

Results of the survey formed part of a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity among Youth” is as a follow-up report to the 2008 “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” which Pate also helped prepare.

“This important new report from the Department of Health and Human Services provides powerful support for the elements of the National Physical Activity Plan that emphasize the critical role that our schools can and should play in providing children with the physical activity they need to be healthy and fit,” says Pate, president of the National Physical Activity Alliance.

Parents and the education and medical communities share a responsibility in solving the problem, he says.

The Arnold School professor noted specifically:

  • Schools be held accountable for delivering high quality physical education; to this end, physical education should be included in each state’s “school report card” accountability system.
  • Pediatricians should systematically assess their patients’ physical activity levels and should refer inactive kids to community-based physical activity programs.
  • Youth sports programs should emphasize providing each participating child with as much physical activity as possible.
  • Communities should ensure that all children have access to after-school programs that emphasize provision of physical activity.

In addition to his work with the report, Pate recently was spotlighted in the newsletter of the Global Physical Activity Network (GlobalPANet). To view his profile, visit the newsletter at

Pate says that the Midcourse Report places the greatest responsibility on schools. With a typical school day lasting approximately six to seven hours, schools are an ideal setting to provide physical activity to students.

Additionally, more than 4.2 million young children (about 60 percent of children ages three to five who are not attending kindergarten) are enrolled in early care and education settings in the United States. The evidence suggests that well-designed interventions can increase physical activity among these children, he says.

For more information about the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report, visit

The “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report” was completed by a subcommittee of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. The subcommittee’s work was coordinated and managed by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.


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