Sometimes it is difficult to get your head around the fact that we actually burn calories just by resting. Our bodies are constantly burning calories just to maintain normal function. But earlier this week the Journal of Obesity reported on findings that the number of calories burnt a rest is 25% at the age of 15 than it is at the age of 10.
That adds up to around 500 less calories burnt everyday if you compared a 10 year old and a 15 year old that participate in a similar level of exercise and have a fairly similar build. Why is this important? Well we know that childhood and teenage obesity are at worryingly high levels and this might go someway to explaining why that is.
In terms of exercise, we are talking about a significant amount of exercise here – 500 calories is roughly an hour of intense exercise for teenagers.
Our body burns calories when we are resting just to allow are bodies to function normally. For our heart, liver, kidneys etc. to all function properly, it requires energy. But the idea that the amount of energy required to manage this is less at 15 has come as a bit of a surprise. As you might expect, growth spurts require a lot of energy. So if you were to graph this level of calories burnt without exercise you would inevitably see it spike during these periods.
The research doesn’t just use these new findings alone to explain the record high levels of obesity. It appear that during our teenage years, particularly among girls, there also appears to be a drop in the amount of exercise being done as well.
Nutrition is unsurprisingly a factor here too. Sales of foods that we consider to be “junk” continue to remain at high levels, while prices of fruit and vegetables remain comparatively high. The evidence also suggests teenagers and children of a younger age are heavily interacting with technology for long periods throughout the day. Two hours spent on an iPad is inevitably two hours less spent exercising.
But technology isn’t all bad. Wearable technologies can play a part in promoting a healthier lifestyle for young people and new apps that relate to health and fitness enter the market everyday. The trick is finding one that your child actually finds engaging enough to work.
What this new research tells us is that there is far more to be done. The data about calories here is interesting to say the least but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to justify adolescent obesity. In fact, I would argue that instead it should be the motivation to encourage even greater levels of exercise among younger people today.