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The world’s laziest teenagers: Only 7% of children in South Korea are active for an hour a day

Teenagers in South Korea are the laziest in the world, according to a global study.

A country-by-country breakdown of physical activity levels has revealed just one in five 11 to 17-year-olds get as much exercise as they need to to stay healthy.

In some countries, led by South Korea and including the Philippines, Cambodia and Sudan, more than 90 per cent of teenagers are inactive.

In the UK 79.9 per cent of teenagers do ‘insufficient physical activity’, the report said.

Meanwhile the US outperformed almost every country on Earth with just 72 per cent of children inactive – higher only than Bangladesh, Slovakia and Ireland.

Experts said the statistics were ‘concerning’ and that encouraging exercise is vital for tackling the most dangerous child health concern – obesity.

South Korea, the Philippines and Cambodia had the largest proportion of children who were physically inactive and did less than an hour of exercise per day, the World Health Organization study revealed

‘Children who are more active have better health and wellbeing and generally do better in school,’ said Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

‘We should be making it easier for children and young people to have active and healthy lives.’

Researchers from the World Health Organization have produced the report which outlines worrying levels of adolescent laziness all over the world.

It said all children between the ages of 11 and 17 should do at least an hour of exercise every day, but the in reality only around 19 per cent manage it.

In the country with the most active children – Bangladesh – still only a third of children (33.9 per cent) hit that target, according to the study of 1.6milllion youths.

Girls were less active than boys in all but four out of 146 countries, the WHO revealed, with only Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia bucking the trend.

Study author Dr Regina Guthold: ‘Urgent policy action to increase physical activity is needed now, particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity.’

Dr Guthold and her team said physical activity was important for developing young people’s hearts, lungs, bones and muscles and keeping them a healthy weight.

In the UK one in three children are overweight before they finish primary school and even fewer (18 per cent) eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

NHS figures last month showed 24.6 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds are obese in England, while 34.3 per cent are overweight to some degree.

According to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US’s childhood obesity rate is 18.5 per cent and affects some 13.7million young people.


  1. South Korea (94.2% of children are active for less than one hour a day)
  2. Philippines (93.4%)
  3. Cambodia (91.6%)
  4. Sudan (90.3%)
  5. Timor-Leste (89.4%)
  6. Zambia (89.3%)
  7. Australia (89%)
  8. Venezuela (88.8%)
  9. New Zealand (88.7%)
  10. Italy (88.6%)


  1. Bangladesh (66.1% of children are active for less than one hour a day)
  2. Slovakia (71.5%)
  3. Ireland (71.8%)
  4. United States of America (72%)
  5. Bulgaria (73.3%)
  6. Albania (73.9%)
  7. India (73.9%)
  8. Greenland (73.9%)
  9. Finland (75.4%)
  10. Republic of Moldova (75.7%)
England's 10 and 11-year-olds are fatter than ever before, damning NHS statistics revealed last month. Almost a quarter of Year Six children are obese or severely obese

England’s 10 and 11-year-olds are fatter than ever before, damning NHS statistics revealed last month. Almost a quarter of Year Six children are obese or severely obese

In a comment published alongside the study, in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, a Canadian researcher said modern society is to blame for inactivity.

Dr Mark Tremblay, from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, wrote: ‘The changing world is changing people, with movement being one of the clearest indicators of this change.

‘The electronic revolution has fundamentally transformed people’s movement patterns by changing where and how they live, learn, work, play, and travel, progressively isolating them indoors (eg, houses, schools, workplaces, and vehicles), most often in chairs.

‘People sleep less, sit more, walk less frequently, drive more regularly, and do less physical activity than they used to.

‘They are increasingly moving from one country to another, from rural to urban areas, from outdoors to indoors, from standing to sitting, from walking to driving, and from active play to digital play.

‘These effects and how they vary spatially, temporally, or culturally are important, particularly since physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for premature death worldwide, but remain poorly understood.’

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Professor Viner said physical inactivity was not something which existed alone, and goes hand in hand with obesity.

He added: ‘[Obese children] is the group we should be most concerned about because many of these children will start to develop health and wellbeing problems relatively early in life.

‘Encouraging physical activity is part of the solution – it needs to come with a lot of empathy, support and access to safe and free public spaces. We also need to push the food and drinks industry to do more.’ 

Country % of children
active for less
than an hour a day
Country % of children
active for less
than an hour a day
Bangladesh 66.1 State of Palestine 84
Slovakia 71.5 Guyana 84
Ireland 71.8 Dominica 84.1
United States of America 72 Estonia 84.1
Bulgaria 73.3 Bhutan 84.1
Albania 73.9 China 84.3
India 73.9 Portugal 84.3
Greenland 73.9 Grenada 84.3
Finland 75.4 Saint Lucia 84.3
Moldova 75.7 Kuwait 84.3
Benin 75.9 Bahamas 84.4
Canada 76.3 Laos 84.4
Singapore 76.3 Taiwan 84.4
Spain 76.6 Greece 84.5
Ukraine 76.7 Denmark 84.5
Croatia 76.8 Russian Federation 84.5
Tokelau 77.2 Israel 84.7
Czech Republic 77.4 Sweden 84.7
Thailand 77.5 Peru 84.7
Armenia 77.7 Cayman Islands 84.8
Austria 77.8 Jordan 84.8
Macedonia 78.4 Argentina 84.8
Mongolia 78.7 Iraq 85
Poland 78.8 Sri Lanka 85.2
Guam 78.9 Djibouti 85.2
Palau 79 Bolivia 85.5
Antigua and Barbuda 79.2 Uganda 85.7
Luxembourg 79.2 Wallis and Futuna Islands 85.7
Hungary 79.5 Switzerland 85.7
Romania 79.5 American Samoa 85.8
United Kingdom 79.9 Tonga 85.8
Montserrat 79.9 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 85.8
Slovenia 80 El Salvador 86.1
Latvia 80.1 Malaysia 86.2
Lithuania 80.1 Vietnam 86.3
Netherlands 80.2 Yemen 86.4
Belize 80.3 Indonesia 86.4
Iceland 80.3 Ecuador 86.5
Bahrain 81 Zimbabwe 86.6
Turkey 81.3 Nauru 86.8
Malta 81.4 Myanmar 86.8
Suriname 81.4 Kenya 86.8
Tunisia 81.5 Guatemala 86.9
Barbados 81.8 Netherlands Antilles 86.9
Anguilla 81.9 Pakistan 86.9
Maldives 81.9 France 87
United Arab Emirates 81.9 Samoa 87.1
Costa Rica 82 Brunei 87.1
Lebanon 82.1 Mozambique 87.1
Tanzania 82.1 Tuvalu 87.1
Trinidad and Tobago 82.1 Mauritania 87.2
Uruguay 82.2 Morocco 87.3
Mauritius 82.2 Niue 87.3
British Virgin Islands 82.2 Namibia 87.4
Saint Kitts and Nevis 82.3 Ghana 87.5
Kiribati 82.5 Egypt 87.5
Seychelles 82.6 Botswana 87.5
Cook Islands 82.7 Syria 87.5
French Polynesia 82.8 Vanuatu 87.5
Libya 83.2 Chile 87.6
Mexico 83.2 Afghanistan 88.1
Fiji 83.3 Qatar 88.2
Nepal 83.5 Senegal 88.5
Paraguay 83.5 Italy 88.6
Belgium 83.5 New Zealand 88.7
Norway 83.5 Venezuela 88.8
Brazil 83.6 Australia 89
Germany 83.7 Zambia 89.3
Solomon Islands 83.7 Timor-Leste 89.4
Algeria 83.8 Sudan 90.3
Oman 83.8 Cambodia 91.6
Honduras 83.8 Philippines 93.4
Colombia 83.9 Republic of Korea 94.2


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