Physical activity behaviours in adolescence: current evidence and opportunities for intervention.
Lancet (London, England) 2020
PubMed ID : 34302767
Young people aged 10-24 years constitute 24% of the world's population; investing in their health could yield a triple benefit-eg, today, into adulthood, and for the next generation. However, in physical activity research, this life stage is poorly understood, with the evidence dominated by research in younger adolescents (aged 10-14 years), school settings, and high-income countries. Globally, 80% of adolescents are insufficiently active, and many adolescents engage in 2 h or more daily recreational screen time. In this Series paper, we present the most up-to-date global evidence on adolescent physical activity and discuss directions for identifying potential solutions to enhance physical activity in the adolescent population. Adolescent physical inactivity probably contributes to key global health problems, including cardiometabolic and mental health disorders, but the evidence is methodologically weak. Evidence-based solutions focus on three key components of the adolescent physical activity system: supportive schools, the social and digital environment, and multipurpose urban environments. Despite an increasing volume of research focused on adolescents, there are still important knowledge gaps, and efforts to improve adolescent physical activity surveillance, research, intervention implementation, and policy development are urgently needed.
Young people aged 10-24 years make up 24% of the world’s population. Investing in their health could yield a “triple benefit”: for adolescents today, when they move into adulthood, and for the next generation. Physical activity behaviour in this life stage is poorly understood, with the published evidence mostly related to research in younger adolescents (10-14yr) and conducted in school settings and high-income countries. Globally, 80% of adolescents are insufficiently active, and many engage in ≥2hrs of daily recreational screen time. Adolescent physical inactivity likely contributes to key global health problems, including cardio-metabolic health (incl. diabetes and high blood pressure) and mental health (incl. depression and anxiety). However, the current evidence is not very strong and needs to be strengthened to support investment in adolescent physical activity. We discuss evidence-based solutions that focus on three key aspects of the adolescent physical activity system: (i) supportive school environments, (ii) the social and digital environments, and (iii) multi-purpose urban environments. We show that multi-component programmes, including tailored support for schools, are most likely to be successful. But as many adolescents across the globe are not in education alternative strategies to reach this population are needed (e.g. changes to the built environment or digital interventions). We conclude that although there is promising evidence available on how to promote adolescent physical activity behaviour, however major challenges with successfully and sustainably implementing initiatives remain. Moreover, more studies from low-and-middle income countries, including those out of school, and including older adolescents and young adults going through major life transitions are urgently needed to achieve the promise of the triple benefit of adolescent health promotion.