• Tue, Nov 19 - 2:30 pm ET

Kids Today Are Really Out Of Shape And We Need To Fix It

the heavyweights still 1Science continues to prove that kids these days should perhaps get on my lawn and run around a little bit.

Recent findings presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions show that today’s children have “cardiovascular fitness 15 per cent lower than their parents did at the same age” and take a minute and a half longer to run a mile than children three decades ago. How very shocking. Sike. It’s not. Children are people after all, surely adults today also have lower cardiovascular fitness and less speedy feet.

According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Grant Tomkinson, a senior lecturer at the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences “If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life.” Translation: The children might be doomed.

The researchers looked at 50 studies on running fitness from the years1964 to 2010, involving over 25 million kids from 28 different countries. In order to determine cardiovascular fitness, they timed the kids running or measured the distance they could run in a set time. Cardiovascular endurance has taken a significant decline around the globe, plummeting about 5% per decade across nations.

The declines, according to Dr. Tomkinson, are probably caused by “social, behavioral, physical, psycho-social and physiological factors.” That explanation covers all grounds except potential contributing factors like “sorcery” and “terrorists.”

So what are we to do? Dr. Tomkinson suggests that children get an hour of daily activity that engage the big muscle groups, encouraging kids to choose a range of physical activities they like or want to try in order to get moving and develop good fitness habits for life. That sort of advice sounds great in theory, and more physical activity is certainly something to strive for; however, considering the “social, behavioral, physical, psycho-social and physiological factors” attributed to the decline in fitness, many aspects of life in the 21st century need to be adjusted to solve the problem at hand. Slower children are just a symptom of a larger problem.

via The Daily Mail//Image via Heavyweights (1995)

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  • anon

    What can we do? Stop cutting recess and PE. Let the kids play real games, not “Stay off the grass” “Don’t run”. Make it possible to be a multi sport kid – don’t specialize by 5th grade. Quit calling all those boys ADD and drugging them. Let your kids play out of your sight. I could go on but you get the idea….

    • Joanna Rafael

      All of those things would be great! We definitely need to make physical activity more readily accessible to kids.

  • that_girl_again

    I completely agree that something has to be done…and I think parents have a responsibility to set a good example of health with good habits, physical fitness, and well-balanced meals. There are a lot of physical activities parents can do with children after they get home from work, but it’s just easier to all sit down in front of the television after a long day. I think the more people are reminded of these issues, the more they will engage children to be active. Out of sight, out of mind absolutely applies here. So, keeping this in public discourse and providing suggestions to families on being active is key.

    Also, I hate to be a stickler, but I think you mean “psych” not “sike.”

    • Joanna Rafael

      I totally agree that it would be great for families to engage in healthy activities together, but what’s standing in the way isn’t pure laziness or ignorance. Other factors like time constraints, finances, and access are also impeding healthy lifestyles.

      Also, I meant “psyched you out,” but wanted to be clear that I was using slang. It seems like you understood what I meant, you old stickler!

    • that_girl_again

      time constraints I believe, but there are plenty of free active activities that can be done with kids….even if you don’t have a lot of space. It’s about being a bit creative….and taking in suggestions from others. I grew up playing relay up and down my apartment building’s stairs with my dad when he came home from work because it wasn’t safe to play outside towards the evening. Or another example would be Simon says, it’s a great indoor game. You can play it with kids while you cook dinner. “Simon says jump up and down on one foot! Simon says skip across the room. Now run in place!” I don’t think finance or access are legitimate in this case. Also, if you have access to a park (and I know many people don’t), there are so many free kids games and websites dedicated to them. The time issue I can agree with. But even setting examples and engaging your kids once a week is better than not at all.