Just one-quarter of American youths engage in the recommended level of daily physical activity, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, 24.8 percent of American youths between the ages of 12 and 15 participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day. That recommendation comes from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which were adopted by both Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"We hope to see these numbers improve," says Tala Fakhouri, a CDC epidemiologist and author of the new report detailing the findings.
Still, Fakhouri says the numbers aren't out of line with past years. Although this study is the first to examine adolescents ages 12 to 15, a previous CDC study from 2011 found 29 percent of high schoolers met those physical activity guidelines.
Overall, about 31 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls met the 60-minute benchmark three or fewer days per week in 2012. Nearly 8 percent of boys and girls total did not meet that requirement on any day of the week.
The most common activities among boys who reported any level of physical activity outside of school were basketball, running and football, while running, walking and basketball were most popular for girls.
Among boys, the same percentage (29.5 percent) of normal-weight and overweight individuals met the benchmark for daily physical activity, but a significantly smaller percentage (18 percent) of obese boys did so. A similar trend appeared for girls, but the differences were not significant -- 24 percent of normal-weight, 20 percent of overweight and 19.6 percent of obese girls met the goal.
A lack of physical activity, the CDC says, can lead to obesity, which has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the last three decades. In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, according to the CDC.
The long-term consequences of obesity brought on by physical inactivity also can be far-reaching, the center says, and can include a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and arthritis, among other things.
There are small steps families can take to achieve these national physical activity guidelines, Fakhouri says.
"A family can take a long walk after dinner, you can take your dog for a walk. You can dance, you can play basketball," Fakhouri says. "Any activity is going to be good activity."