The most sedentary: Teens and those 60+
In a study conducted as part of the 2003-2004 and 2005-2006 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 12,529 Americans ages 6 to 85 wore devices designed to measure their movement — movement of all types, not just exercise — during the course of one week. The study’s goal was to determine how one’s level of physical activity changes over time.
The results were shocking: they concluded that an average American, by age 19, is as sedentary as a 60 year old.
How sedentary is an older adult in their 60s? Another study, conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that adults between the ages of 60 and 85 spend roughly 60 percent of their time, or eight hours daily, sitting or lying down.
As alarming as these conclusions may seem, when you consider the results, they make sense. Older adults may have difficulty getting out to exercise as their bodies age.
Teens, on the other hand, are constantly forced to remain seated at a desk due to the way the American school day has been established. In addition, technology such as television and computers may entice many students to pass up on a game of basketball for video games.
Health and other benefits
In contrast to the negative impact a lack of activity can have on the health of teens and seniors alike — including obesity, depression, heart conditions, etc. — an active lifestyle can promote longer lives, build muscle strength, improve hand-eye coordination, achieve better balance and a healthy weight, and much more.
Risk for disabilities or dementia could be significantly reduced, and cognitive function enhanced, when older adults exercise regularly.
Beyond this, making time to exercise can improve relationships with others. Joining a competitive team or meeting friends to play a friendly game of a favorite sport enables both teens and older adults to avoid isolation and adopt a more social lifestyle.
Exercise can also make you feel genuinely happy. When active, the body releases specific proteins and endorphins that result in an improved mood and an overall feeling of ease. I, personally, like to run on the treadmill in the mornings so that I don’t feel antsy when doing work during the day.
Finally, participation in athletics can bolster leadership skills, which can be useful at any age. Playing team sports requires effective communication, strategy and consideration of others. There’s a reason for the expression, “take one for the team.”
The next time you interact with a younger friend, brainstorm ways that you can stay fit, separately or together.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers should get at least an hour of physical activity per day.
Meanwhile, it is recommended that older adults get approximately two and a half hours of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, exercise each week.
Work together to ensure that you achieve those goals. To do so, teens can join school sports teams or community leagues, and older adults can search for local senior sports leagues or adult aerobics classes. Often, local community or fitness centers provide athletic options for older adults.
You can also arrange to play sports together or with other friends at a local tennis court, athletic complex or park.
No matter what you decide to do, you can feel positive about the fact that you are making a healthy decision that will benefit you physically, socially and emotionally.
Alexis Bentz is an 11th grade student at Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville, Md.