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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Seven in 10 adolescents in Ireland do not get the recommended daily amount of physical activity

A global study highlighted a huge gender gap between girls and boys in Ireland.

Girls were found to be less active than boys in Ireland.
Girls were found to be less active than boys in Ireland.
Image: Shutterstock/tomeqs

MORE THAN 60% of boys and over 80% of girls in Ireland do not get enough daily physical activity, according to a major international study published today. 

The study was carried out by researchers at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal. 

It found that more than 80% of school-going adolescents globally did not meet the WHO recommendation of at least one hour of physical activity per day. 

The study looked at the trend among 1.6 million 11 to 17-year-olds through surveys carried out in over 146 countries between 2001 and 2016. 

Overall, some 85% of girls and 78% of boys did not meet the recommendation based on a global average. 

In Ireland, specifically, it reported 64% of boys fail to meet the physical daily activity recommendation, a fall from the 71% in 2001.

Girls fared worse, however, with 81% failing to meet the recommendation in 2016 – that figure is the same figure as that which was drawn from a survey back in 2001.

Combined, it put the figure for the number of adolescents who do not get the recommended daily dose at 71%.

The report points to the widening gender gap in this area as Ireland and the US were the only countries with a difference of more than 15% in the number of girls meeting the recommendation compared to boys. 

“Differences in prevalence of insufficient physical activity between boys and girls, and the widening gaps over time were particularly apparent in some high-income countries, such as Singapore, the USA, and Ireland,” it said. 

“Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity,” study author Dr Regina Guthold said. 

Co-author Dr Fiona Bull added: “Strong political will and action can address the fact that four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical, and mental health benefits of regular physical activity.”

In spite of the widening gender gap, and while 71% of Irish adolescents are deemed to be skipping physical activity, Ireland ranked highly compared to other countries around the world. 

As a whole, it ranked third in having the most active adolescents behind Bangladesh and Slovakia. The US ranked in fourth and Bulgaria ranked in fifth. 

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