Today’s children are significantly less aerobically fit than kids of the past, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013 in Dallas, US.
Researchers analyed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million kids, ages 9 to 17, in 28 countries. They gauged cardiovascular endurance by how far kids could run in a set time or how long it took to run a set distance. Tests typically lasted five to 15 minutes or covered 800m to 3km.
Cardiovascular endurance declined significantly within the 46 years, the researchers found. Average changes were similar between boys and girls, younger and older kids, and across different regions, although they varied country to country.
Overall, today’s children are about 15 per cent less aerobically fit than children 30 years ago, the researchers said. That translates to being about 90 seconds slower when doing a timed 1600m.
The researchers said the decline in fitness could have long-lasting effects, for individuals and society.
“If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life,” said Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., lead author of the study and senior lecturer in the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences.
Poor aerobic fitness also has more immediate ramifications for children. Recent research has shown that fit children outperform their less-fit peers in some measurements of learning and that being an active pre-teen is linked with improved school performance, with the effects of the latter sometimes lasting for years.
With the widespread defunding of physical education in school, parents have had to take more responsibility for their kids’ fitness. Our kids running channel has a variety of resources, including guidance on how to get kids running and how to keep them motivated.