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Physical inactivity in adolescents (Indicator 6)

Published


The indicator describes the following: The proportion of children and adolescents who are insufficiently physically active, defined as less than 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity daily.


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This indicator is part of Target (3): A 10 per cent reduction in insufficient physical activity.

The indicator is based on physical activity among children and adolescents, measured using an accelerometer. It describes the proportion of insufficiently physically active children and adolescents, defined as failing to meet national recommendations for physical activity.

Results

Approximately 10-30 per cent of nine-year-olds and approximately 50 per cent of 15-year-olds were insufficiently physically active according to measurements taken with accelerometers in 2005/06 and 2011/12. This is shown by data from the National Mapping Study on Physical Activity in Nine and Fifteen-year-olds (UngKan). 

There was no definitive change over time in the proportion of nine and 15-year-olds who did not meet the recommendations for physical activity in the period from 2005/06 to 2011/12. 

The proportion of insufficiently physically active children was higher among girls than among boys, and was higher among 15-year-olds than among nine-year-olds.  

Accelerometers 9-15 NCD.jpg

Figure 1The proportion not meeting the physical activity recommendations upon objective measurement using accelerometers, among nine and 15-year-olds in 2005/06 and in 2011/12, as a percentage. Source: National Mapping Study on Physical Activity, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

Data sources

The data source for this indicator is the National Mapping Study on Physical Activity among Nine and Fifteen-year-olds (UngKan).

A description of UngKan follows below.

Data source: UngKan

The National Mapping Study on Physical Activity (the UngKan studies)

Description 

Accelerometer data on physical activity were obtained from UngKan1 and UngKan2. In UngKan1 (2005/06), a nationally representative sample of nine-year-olds (n=1470) and 15-year-olds (n=1348) were invited to participate. Of these, respectively, 1306 (88.8 per cent) and 993 (73.7 per cent) consented, from which 1127 nine-year-olds and 702 fifteen-year-olds contributed sufficient accelerometer data to be included in the analyses. Similar mapping of accelerometer-measured physical activity was conducted in 2011/12 (UngKan2). For UngKan2, 1945 nine-year-olds and 1759 fifteen-year-olds were invited to participate. Of these, 1421 nine-year-olds (73 per cent) and 1106 fifteen-year-olds (63 per cent) agreed to participate, from which, respectively, 1305 and 972 contributed sufficient accelerometer data to be included in the analyses. 

Data on the proportion not meeting the recommendations among children and adolescents are based on the reports from the two UngKan studies:

UngKan 1: Physical activity among children and adolescents – Results of the mapping of nine- and 15-year-olds in 2005-2006. Report by the Norwegian Directorate of Health, 2008, ISBN-978-82-8081-101-1

UngKan 2: Physical activity among six-, nine- and 15-year-olds in Norway - Results of a mapping study in 2011. Report by the Norwegian Directorate of Health, 2012, ISBN no. 978-82-8081-262-9

In addition, the data are based on a research article about the UngKan studies by Dalene et al. Reference: Dalene KE, Scand J Med Sci Sports 2017

Effect measure

  • The proportion of children not meeting the physical activity recommendations based on objective measurement using accelerometers, among nine-year-olds, as a percentage 
  • The proportion of adolescents not meeting the physical activity recommendations based on objective measurement using accelerometers, among 15-year-olds, as a percentage  

Based on the accelerometer data, all participants who accumulated an average of fewer than 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day were defined as not meeting the recommendations for physical activity. The average was calculated by dividing the number of minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity recorded over the measurement period by the number of days the accelerometer was used. Only data from days on which the accelerometer was used for eight hours or more were included.   

Interpretation and sources of error

Accelerometry is a reliable and valid method that provides reasonable estimates on the prevalence of physical activity among children and adolescents at group level. Accelerometers have certain weaknesses. They provide imprecise measurements of certain activities (e.g. cycling), which in some cases may produce less accurate data at the individual level. Further, it may be argued that using the average number of minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day in the UngKan studies is somewhat liberal.

Data quality

Data on the proportion of participants who were insufficiently physically active based on accelerometer data are highly accurate and should be used when investigating changes over time in physical inactivity in children and adolescents.

Table accompanying Figure 1 

 

2005/06

2011/12

Boys, 9-years-old

10

14

Girls, 9-years-old

26

31

Boys, 15-years-old

48

43

Girls, 15-years-old

51

58

Table 1: The proportion not meeting the physical activity recommendations upon objective measurement using accelerometers, among nine and 15-year-olds in 2005/06 and in 2011/12, as a percentage. Source: National Mapping Study on Physical Activity, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the Norwegian Directorate of Health. 

National adaptation to global indicators

WHO’s definition of the indicator

Indicator 6. Prevalence of insufficiently physically active adolescents, defined as less than 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity daily.

National adaptation

WHO’s indicator is based on self-reporting. We present objective measurement data based on accelerometers.

WHO’s indicator applies to adolescents. We present additional data about children.