Only about half of U.S. adolescents are physically active five or more days of the week, and fewer than 1 in 3 eat fruits and vegetables daily, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
In a survey of youth in 39 states, NIH researchers questioned nearly 10,000 students between 11 and 16 years old about their activity levels and eating habits. They also asked the students to describe their emotional health, body image, and general satisfaction with life.
“The students showed a surprising variability in eating patterns,” said lead author Ronald J. Iannotti, Ph.D., of the Prevention Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH Institute in which the study was conducted. “But most—about 74 percent—did not have a healthy pattern.”
The researchers found that the adolescents’ diet and activity habits could be classified into three general categories. They described the first group as unhealthful. This group accounted for 26 percent of participants. The second group, classified as healthful, accounted for 27 percent. Because it was the largest group—including 47 percent of participants—the researchers classified the third group as typical.
The analysis of the survey results showed that the typical youth were least likely to exercise five or more days each week or to eat fruits and vegetables at least once a day. They were more likely to spend time watching television, playing video games or on a computer than the healthful group, and less likely to do so than the unhealthful group. They infrequently ate fruits and vegetables but also infrequently ate sweets, chips or fries, or had soft drinks. Youth in this group were more likely than youth in the other two groups to be overweight or obese and to be dissatisfied with the appearance of their bodies.
Their findings appear in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Source: Bioscience Technology.com
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