Nutrition and physical fitness play a major role in the health of adolescents. Teens can be a healthy weight but consume too few nutrients through their diets. For instance, iron deficiency anemia is a major cause of death and disability worldwidei. Malnutrition is not only associated with underweight. Obese teens too can suffer from malnutrition, especially if their caloric intake is from foods with poor nutritional quality. Time spent performing sedentary activities, such as computer use, increases as teens age, and physical activity declines with age.
Below are some tips and resources to help raise awareness about healthy diet and exercise:
- Healthy Diet and Exercise Event/Promotional Toolkit
Download the Teen Health Week event/promotional toolkit for healthy diet and exercise.
The day’s aim is to provide facts and resources for teens to learn accurate information about nutritious diet and the importance and benefits of physical activity, but also to provide ample opportunities to demonstrate physical activity can be fun, and nutrition can be tasty. Teens also can be encouraged to inspire healthy behaviors in their families as setting an example.
This toolkit has been created to make it easy for a variety of organizations (Medical Offices, Schools, etc.) interested in adolescent health to participate in Global Teen Health Week. You are free to use and adapt any of the materials herein for your Teen Health Week activities; however, use of these materials is not required in order to promote adolescent health during Teen Health Week. Participating organizations are at liberty to celebrate Teen Health Week in any manner they wish, and are encouraged to be creative in adapting these ideas to meet the needs of the adolescents you wish to reach. Approval for activities or educational materials is not required.
- Healthy Diet and Exercise Facts
Worldwide, the number of obese adolescents and children has been increasing steadily over the past 40 years: rates of obesity in children ages 5-19 has increased 10-fold over this period of time. If these rates continue, obesity will take over underweight by 2022 among young people as a major nutritional health issue. Obesity is well known to be associated with an increased risk of variety of health issues, both in teens themselves, as well as later in life as teens develop into adults. For instance, obesity is associated with diabetes, numerous types of cancer (which comprise almost half of cancers diagnosed): thyroid, breast, kidney, liver, colon and others.
Dietary choices and physical inactivity contribute to these problems:
- Fewer than 1 in 4 adolescents gets the World Health Organization (WHO)iv recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. While physical activity levels are low for young people, then tend to be especially low for girls.
- The WHOvii also recommends that free sugars should constitute less than 10% of total energy intake. Recent evidence from the United Kingdom suggests that adolescents are consuming 15% of their daily calorie intake in the form of sugars.
- Among US high school students, rates of soda consumption are decreasing but still about 1 in 5 drank soda at least once a day in 2015.
- A significant percent of US high school students does not regularly eat fruits (~5%) and vegetables (~7%).x Diets low in fruit and vegetable consumption are amongst the leading causes of dietary risk factors in a person’s life.
- Slightly fewer than half of US high school students attend physical education classes once a week.
- Young people spend approximately 60% of their waking time sitting, making sedentary behaviour the most common behavior (besides sleep) in children and adolescents.
- “Screens” play a big role in sedentary behavior of teens. Although television viewing is decreasing, for instance more than 4 in 10 US high school students spend 3 or more hours a day at a computer for fun outside of school during their free time.
Many public health experts are concerned about the impacts of marketing directly to teens, as well as limited access to healthier foods amongst the poor. Professor Majid Ezzati, of The Imperial College of London states:
“These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes.”
- Other Resources