In a new study, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that over 80 per cent of school-going adolescents globally fail to have at least one hour of physical activity per day.
These include 85 per cent of girls and 78 per cent of boys.
Based on data reported by 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-old students across all 146 countries, girls were less active than boys in all but four places –Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia.
“The trend of girls being less active than boys is concerning,” said study co-author Dr Leanne Riley, WHO. “More opportunities to meet the needs and interests of girls are needed to attract and sustain their participation in physical activity through adolescence and into adulthood.”
The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle during adolescence include improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and cardiometabolic health, and positive effects on weight.
There is also growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive development and socialising, WHO said. Current evidence suggests that many of these benefits continue into adulthood.
To achieve these benefits, the WHO recommends for adolescents to do moderate or vigorous physical activity for an hour or more each day.
The authors of the report estimated how many 11- to 17-year-olds do not meet this recommendation by analysing data collected through school-based surveys on physical activity levels.
The assessment included all types of physical activity, such as time spent in active play, recreation and sports, active domestic chores, walking and cycling or other types of active transportation, physical education and planned exercise.