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CDC: High school students don't exercise enough
June 16th, 2011
03:55 PM ET

CDC: High school students don't exercise enough

High school students aren't doing much running - and when they do run, there's a good chance it's to a vending machine.

Roughly one-third of high school students in the U.S. drink two or more sodas, sports drinks, or other sugary beverages per day, but only 15% get the one hour of daily aerobic exercise that health officials recommend, according to the results of a nationwide survey released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although 51% of students do engage in muscle-strengthening exercise (such as push-ups or weight lifting) at least three days a week, as guidelines recommend, the overall picture is less than ideal.

"Regular physical activity has so many benefits to kids," says CDC researcher MinKyoung Song, Ph.D., who coauthored a report analyzing the survey results. "Not doing enough can lead to numerous problems later in life, like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes."

Health.com: America's healthiest schools

High school girls were far less likely than boys to meet the recommendation for either type of exercise. Just over 8% of girls in the survey reported getting 60 minutes of aerobic exercise per day, compared to 22% for boys.

And across the board, students in higher grades were less likely than underclassmen to get enough exercise.

The findings are troubling but not surprising. "For the past decade, there's been very little change in participation in aerobic activity among high school students," Song says.

The survey, which was conducted in 2010, included a nationally representative sample of 11,429 U.S. students, who filled out questionnaires about their eating and exercise habits during the previous week.

Health.com: Stay fit with your kids this summer

A second report from the same survey found that although water, milk, and 100% fruit juice are the most popular beverages among high schoolers, most students supplement these healthy drinks with soda and other sugary beverages.

Nearly one-quarter of students reported drinking at least one soda daily. In all, 63% of students consumed at least one soda, sports drink (like Gatorade), or other sweetened drink per day, and 33% drank two or more.

Health.com: Are sports drinks part of a healthy teen lifestyle?

"The fact that we see roughly two-thirds of students drinking sugary beverages daily, and one-third drinking them two or more times a day, is a problem," says the lead author of the report, Nancy D. Brener, Ph.D., a researcher in the CDC's division of adolescent and school health. "It adds a lot of sugar and excess calories to the diet. And it comes in the way of other nutrients they need."

Like too little exercise, consuming too much soda or other sugary beverages can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the report notes. Since most consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages occurs at home, Brener urges parents to encourage their children to replace sugary beverages with water and other, healthier options.

"It's not to say you shouldn't ever have a sugary drink," she says. "But it should be a special occasion, not on a routine basis."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Health.com

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. abby

    Most Americans only exercise is picking up a fork to shove food in their mouth - society on the whole doesn't exercise at all -

    June 16, 2011 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dee

      I think teens are more afflicted. When I (45 years old) go to the beach and have a better body than many of the high school girls then something is wrong! I cannot tell you how many girls I see with midlife belly pooches and legs with no muscle definition at all.

      June 18, 2011 at 20:54 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Dying of laughter right now roflcopter

      May 7, 2013 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  2. jayne

    My 9th grade daughter just finished a 2-week summer school that crammed an entire year of PE in 2 weeks. Class started at 8 and ended at 4. She doesn't have to take another PE credit for the rest of her HS life. Although she will do sports as extra curricular activities, I am rather astonished that kids today aren't forced to take PE every year until their Junior year like we did in the "good ol' days."

    June 16, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jim

    Why do they keep bringing up soda? It's not like Diet coke has any calories in it and who drink regular coke anymore? does Coca Cola even still make it anymore?
    I think that student don't want to exercise too hard in PE class because they are not required to take showers at the end of the class. When I was in school the coach made us all run and play hard in PE or we would FAIL! Since we were all required to shower, being all sweaty and stinky was never an issue.

    June 16, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NowhereTexas

      Are you kidding me? I have yet to see a kid drink a diet soda. I have, however, seen a 3 month old baby being given Dr. Pepper by her mother (a local teacher). All the kids at the baseball and softball fields are drinking Dr. Pepper, Gatorade or Powerade. In fact, I don't think I've seen many adults drink diet sodas here, either.

      June 17, 2011 at 09:09 | Report abuse |
    • Diana

      Ummmm no offense, but do you live under a rock? There is regular coke EVERYWHERE in every single grocery store, vending machine, drugstore etc. And diet coke isn't really good for you either. I don't care if it says 0 calories and no HFCS, it's still all chemicals.

      June 17, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
  4. Nolan

    The "good ole days', yeah, PE was required every other day from grade 7 thru 12. And yes, we changed clothes for PE and showered or failed. the class. And since PE was required to graduate we didn't fail. We also had two or three recesses per day in elementary school (1-6). Today, K-4th graders are lucky if they get one twenty minute recess per day, and no recesses for anyone fifth grade or above in our district. And the reason, for this lack of recesses and PE, one money and two it takes away from the students' academic learning to pass whatever tests must be passed in order to get money, keep your job, etc. If its not educational (math, science, reading), it's a luxury and is one of the first things to be cut from the budget. And yet, we grip about no PE. There is a happy medium out there, we just haven't found it.

    June 16, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dave C

    Unfortunately it seems that school PE and athletics are some of the first things to go when budget cuts need to be made.

    More emphasis should be placed on doing healthy activities for high schoolers and pre-high schoolers.

    http://www.feelgoodtracker.com

    June 16, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy Barnabi - Teacher, THIINKFit founder

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/THIINKFit/335072551512

      Feel like I'm standing on a table and I'm in the middle of a crowded mall, and I'm shouting, but no one is listening!

      June 18, 2011 at 01:27 | Report abuse |
  6. Sharon Murphy

    Even in the 80s, we didn't actually do anything that would be considered "exercise" in PE class. The only useful things we did were stretching. The only people that got real exercise were those that went and got it on their own outside of school.
    Just like now.
    Most of the kids I went to school with had working parents, and many of them had jobs of their own, I can remember three kids that were generally considered "fat" in high school. One I didn't know, two I had gone to school with since kindergarten, and they were always overweight. Somehow, I don't think it was related to their level of activity.
    Tell me again that it's the school's problem that kids are overweight. But tell me with convincing proof to back it up.

    June 16, 2011 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Derek

    what funny is that research shows people learn better with exercise... something to consider for people saying that it would take time away from learning.

    June 16, 2011 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amy Barnabi - Teacher, THIINKFit founder

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/THIINKFit/335072551512
      How true, Derek! Check us out!

      June 18, 2011 at 01:25 | Report abuse |
  8. WhatAJoke

    In my district PE and Recess are a thing of the past. The excuse is there's no time or money for it anymore. They get a 30 minute lunch break – and all of that must be spent in the gym/cafeteria. Literally there's no outside time unless you're still in Kindergarten.

    At the highschool level, there's still no PE. Any funds that existed for that were siphoned to maintain the sports teams, though how they manage to find anyone who can play a sport is beyond me.

    As for my kids, I'm glad we live in a state that is homeschooling friendly. They spend about half their day outdoors riding, running, playing, swimming, and generally moving their bodies and getting healthy activity. I find I have a much better time getting them to focus if they've had a chance to run off their energy first, which makes teaching them so much easier!

    June 17, 2011 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ChoCho

      Man, I remembered PE every single day while in school, all the way up 'til 12th grade; most of these schools have knocked PE to about 1-2x/wk or none at all, all in favor for the more academic classes. If they managed to put PE in everyday, where did the balance go? We were able to pass and STILL have PE in the schedule...

      June 19, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
  9. JLS639

    Most of the shower heads in my junior high and high schools did not work. We did not have enough time to properly dry off afterwards, anyway. Most people kept their book bag on the bleachers during PE because they did not feel the lockers were secure and did not want to be robbed. Can't bring your bags into the shower. Students who did not want to stink all day had every incentive to get out of PE. Oh, but the county considered PE important. You know they did because they said so...

    June 17, 2011 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Who'sTheParent

    Why is it the Schools responsibility to see children get exetcise – who lets them play video games instead of going outside to play, who lets them facebook instead of going outside to play – Parents need to accept responsibility instead of abdicating the raising of their kids to schools.

    June 17, 2011 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jake

    I despised gym class in school. No good can come of a class that involves having public showers and dodgeball.

    But I do think many of the other issues with teens are caused by lack of exercise. Kids need to get the energy out, teenage boys need to get good and tired doing something physical. People complain about kids lack of attention, but they don't give them the outlet for all that energy, It doesn't necessarily mean organized sports. Growing up, my mom put us boys to work. We lived on 20 acres, had horses, dogs, grass to mow, cars to wash. We came home from school and had an hour or of hard work to do, even more in the summer. Boys especially need that. How many times have you seen a teenager cutting grass or doing yardwork. Now a day, parents hire some illegal to cut the grass while the kid plays video games or texts.

    June 17, 2011 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rachel

      Believe it or not, girls need exercise too. Why does the world think it is less important for women to exercise? Women's life expectancy is starting to drop, kind of scary.

      June 17, 2011 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
  12. LINDA

    AS FAR AS PE WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL WE HAD PE FROM 7-12 GRADE AND K-6 WAS 2 RECESS PER DAY. THERE WERE VERY FEW OVER WEIGHT CHILDREN. NOW 75% OR MORE OF THE CHILDREN ARE OVER WEIGHT. PLUS EXERCISE DECREASE STRESS AND IT IS A FACT YOU LEARN BETTER WITH INCREASE EXERCISE. IT IS THE SCHOOLS AND THE PARENTS RESPONSIBILITY AND THE PARENTS NEED TO BE AN EXAMPLE TO THE CHILDREN SINCE JUST AS MANY OR MORE OF THEM ARE OVER WEIGHT. AS FAR AS DIET POP VS REGULAR POP THE DIET HAS NO CALORIES OR SUGAR BUT ALSO NOTHING GOOD IN THEM FOR YOUR HEALTH THIS INCLUDES ALL SUGAR DRINKKS. PLUS IT TAKES AWAY
    FROM DRINKING WHAT IS THE BEST DRINK FOR YOUR BODY PLAIN H20.

    June 17, 2011 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. ser

    I don't care what any of you say....I remember having gym and recess everyday until grade 6...then grade 7-12 no recess but gym everyday...no one showered...we put on deodorant and went to class....who cared if you smelled...Me and my friends loved gym...we were always physical...playing soccer, lacrosse, hockey, dodgeball, softball, tennis, volleyball.....this excuse not to shower...in the my 6 yrs of highshcool grades 7-12..i showered 2x...no one ever said i smell....next excuse.

    June 17, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Amy Barnabi - Teacher, THIINKFit founder

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/THIINKFit/335072551512

    We are exercising five days a week, twenty minutes a day BEFORE school starts at Claymont Intermediate in Dennison, OH. Moving PROVES that you can increase attendance, increase positive behavior, increase self-esteem, and increase state testing scores! This is a totally voluntary program (only because I'm not allowed to make kids move – ?!). When did moving become an option?

    June 18, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BSY

    What the hell is the problem with showering? Are people that damn timid and shy that they can't shower around another person? Not only would I shower around other people, I'd walk around after with my willy swinging around! Suck on that decency!

    June 19, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jane

    "This just in!!!! Lack of exercise makes you fat." Come on CNN, we already heard this type of news long enough. We can't change anything EXCEPT taking the high priority and responsibily to teach our children to eat well and buy them less sugar food.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.