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One solution to teen inactivity: exercise as a family

Today’s teenagers are less fit than teens were a decade ago, states a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC examined levels of cardiorespiratory fitness among teenagers and found that fitness levels are falling among American youth. The report suggests that a diet high in processed foods is the probable cause for the drop in cardiorespiratory fitness.

Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the combined power of the circulatory and respiratory systems. When a person has good cardiorespiratory fitness, he or she can maintain a healthy level of activity. Scientists measure cardiorespiratory fitness using a person’s maximal oxygen uptake, which is the most oxygen someone can consume while exercising.

In 1999-2000, 52.4% of teens aged 12-15 had adequate fitness levels, but in 2012, 42.2% of teens had adequate fitness levels. In 2012, only 50.2% of boys and 33.8% of girls had adequate cardiorespiratory fitness levels. There were no differences in cardiovascular fitness levels between difference races and ethnic groups, but there were differences in teens of different weight: average-weight teens typically had better cardiovascular fitness than their overweight and obese peers.

Young people today spend more time using mobile devices and watching television than they do playing sports or going outside. This, combined with a junk-food-filled diet, contributes to poor cardiorespiratory fitness. The CDC suggests that to reverse this trend, parents need to set a good example for their children by buying healthy foods and preparing meals at home. Parents can also encourage children to be active by exercising with them. Families can walk around the neighborhood or play sports together.

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