Study Reports Limited Physical Activity in Youth Dance Classes

UCSD scientists published a study this month that suggested youth dance classes were not a sufficient source of physical activity for children and adolescents according to federal health standards.

The study involved measuring the physical activity of 264 students during 66 different dance classes. Physical activity was measured by attaching accelerometers that measured the intensity of movements done by the students. Researchers found that, on average, there were only about 17.2 minutes of physical activity in the classes, which is a little over half of the 30 minutes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests for after-school physical activities to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Senior author James Sallis, a UCSD professor in the department of family medicine and public health, told the UCSD News Center that few adolescents actually meet the CDC requirements.

“Overall, physical activity in youth dance classes was low,” Sallis said. “The study showed 8 percent of children and 6 percent of adolescents met the CDC’s 30-minute recommendation for after-school physical activity during dance.”

The researchers conducted the study because they were concerned about the rising rates of childhood obesity. Because they observed that dance is a popular form of activity in younger children, the scientists wanted to gauge how much of an effect it has on health. Most adolescents in the United States do not meet the standard physical activity guidelines that are set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 10 internationally conducted studies, American youth were found to be the least active.

Sallis discussed the possible steps that parents can take to ensure that their children get the proper amount of exercise. 

“We would like them to actually check out the quality and activity in the program before signing them up,” Sallis said. “That’s something that I think is somewhat realistic for parents to do immediately.”

The team of researchers believes that these results may help parents become more aware and more vigilant when it comes to making sure their children are physically fit.