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J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2003 Apr;15(4):170-8.

Assessing physical activity in adolescents: common activities of children in 6th-8th grades.

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School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.



To provide data for physical activity assessment in practice by describing the leisure time activities of adolescents and determining if the activities and the metabolic equivalents (MET levels) of those activities differ for boys and girls.


The study was conducted in five middle schools in three rural counties in North Carolina. Subjects were 1,211 6th, 7th, and 8th graders aged 11-14 (mean 12.2) years. Half (52.5%) were girls. The sample was 64% white, 24% African-American and 12% other races.


The top five activities of boys were football, basketball, bicycling, running, and baseball; the top five activities of girls were talking, running, walking, bicycling, and dancing. The average MET was 5.3 for boys and 4.3 for girls (p = 0.000). By grade levels, 6th graders had an average MET of 4.9 and the MET of 8th graders was 4.5 (p < 0.05). Older youth, girls, and children of parents with more education reported significantly more sedentary activities than the other youth.


Physical activity is an integral component of overall health. Once activities and activity levels are known, current practices can be augmented or changed to accommodate improved understanding of physical activity. Because an active lifestyle is important in preventing obesity and other chronic conditions and for general health, nurse practitioners (NPs) should ask adolescents about their common activities and encourage them to continue the more vigorous activities and reduce time spent in sedentary pursuits. Prescriptive physical activity can be included for primary, secondary, or even tertiary prevention, thus crossing all levels of NP practice.

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