Public Release: 

Physical activity should be a vital sign of children's overall health

Research being presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition suggests that children's physical activity levels be considered a vital sign

American Academy of Pediatrics

ORLANDO, Fla. - More than half of U.S. children are not getting the recommended amount of weekly physical activity. And most of those who do meet the recommendations are exercising longer and for fewer days, risking burnout or repetitive injury risk.

The study abstract, "Evaluation of Pediatric Exercise 'Vital Sign' in Electronic Medical Record from Sports Medicine Clinic", will be presented on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2018 National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando.

The study examined self-reported physical activity of 7,822 children over a three-year period. The children were seen at outpatient pediatric sports medicine clinics. Data indicates that only 5.2 percent of children reported meeting the daily goals for physical activity. In addition, 49.6 percent were insufficiently active, and 5 percent were reported no physical activity. The categories were based on the number of minutes per week in which children participated in physical activity based on the recommended 60 minutes per day or 420 minutes of activity per week.

"Exercise should be used as a vital sign of health," said abstract presenter Julie Young, MA, ATC, a research assistant in the Division of Pediatric Sports Medicine, Nationwide Children's Hospital. "There are numerous advantages of physical activity. Asking these questions can open the door for clinicians to have important conversations with families on how to ensure children get these benefits."

In the study, males averaged 61 more minutes of physical activity per week than females. Males were also 39 percent more likely than females to meet the current physical activity guidelines of 420 minutes per week.

Researchers also noted that physical activity increased with age, with younger children reporting less exercise. Early childhood physical activity is vital to develop motor skills and physical literacy, which can impact physical activity behaviors throughout life.

"Opportunities for physical activity are shrinking - less free play and decreased physical education in schools," said Amy Valasek, MD, MS, physician for Nationwide Children's Hospital Sports Medicine and assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine "But by asking simple questions about daily activity, clinicians can counsel and provide an exercise prescription for healthy physical activity."

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Young will present the abstract, available below, from 3:35 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, in the Regency Ballroom U of the Orange County Convention Center.

Please note: only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit http://www.aap.org.

Abstract Title: Evaluation of Pediatric Exercise "Vital Sign" in Electronic Medical Record from Sports Medicine Clinic.
Amy Valasek
Westerville, OH,

Title: Evaluation of Pediatric Exercise "Vital Sign" in Electronic Medical Record from Sports Medicine Clinic. Purpose: The objective of this study was to describe the physical activity (PA) patterns of children 5-18 years of age seen in outpatient pediatric sports medicine clinics. Methods: IRB approval was received from Nationwide Children's Hospital for this study. A retrospective chart review was performed on patients, ages 5 through 18 years, seen in pediatric sports medicine clinic. Data was evaluated over a three-year period from March 2015 through March 2018. Results: 7822 subjects had PA levels documented in their electronic medical record during the patient visit. Overall, 5% (362/7822) of patients were completely inactive (0 min of exercise per week), and 49.6% (3892/7822) were insufficiently active (more than 0 but less than 420 minutes per week). Children who were sufficiently active (>420 min/week), only 422 (11.9%) followed the current recommendations of 60 minutes, 7 days per week, which was 5.2% of overall sample. Furthermore, males participated in 61 more minutes of physical activity per week than females (p<.001). Males were 39% more likely to meet the current PA guidelines than females (p<.001). Reported PA levels increased significantly as age increased; elementary school children participated in 342-248 min/week, middle school children participated in 387-258 min/week and high school children participated in 431±270 min/week. Conclusions: The benefits of exercise for health and well-being are well documented, but the vast majority of children do not meet the current exercise recommendations. Interestingly, reported PA increased as children aged. Fundamental motor/movement skills develop during childhood and impact PA as an adult, therefore, attention to children in elementary school is paramount promoting development and preventing exercise deficit disorder. This study adds support that females are less physically active than their male counterparts, even in an injured population. Given the burden of physical inactivity, screening all youth, athletes and non-athletes, on days per week and minutes per day provides a snap-shot of self-reported PA and allows health care providers to properly counsel children on activity levels and patterns. Exercise is medicine is a current initiative in adult patients and should be applied to children as well.

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