Pediatric clinical report identifies recommendations to increase physical activity among American youth

March 13, 2020

By Kelly Jordan

Felipe Lobelo, MD, PhD, FAHA, associate professor at the Rollins School of Public Health, was the lead author on a recent American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report on physical activity, which provides guidance to pediatricians for physically assessing and counselling patients and their families to encourage increased physical activity among children in the United States. 

According to results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, overall youth physical levels have decreased. While approximately one-fourth of children meet physical activity guidelines, less than half of those children and eight percent of adolescents meet the suggested 60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity. Given pediatricians’ role in providing care for youth populations, they are an ideal partner in guiding patients and their families toward improved health through physical activity. 

The report provides background data and research supporting the importance of physical activity to children’s mental, cardiovascular, social, and physical health and development. The document goes on to provide detailed recommendations for providers. These include: 

  • Assess and document gross motor skills and physical activity during health care visits.
  • Discuss the role and benefits of physical activity on physical and social growth and development.
  • Encourage parents to model healthy behaviors, including physical activity.
  • Provide tools and resources to families to help them build physical activity into their daily lives.
  • Advocate with health organizations, insurance providers, schools, and community organizations to increase opportunities for physical activity for all children.
  • Look for opportunities to provide physical activity assessments and prescriptions for those children facing barriers to activity.
  • Advocate for including physical activity assessments within electronic health records.
  • Work with medical schools and training programs to develop a curricula in exercise prescription and assessment.