Children Today Are Less Fit Than Their Parents Were

Many children worldwide are approximately 15% less fit from a cardiovascular viewpoint than their parents were as children, according to research presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2013.

Research presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2013 suggests that, from a cardiovascular viewpoint, many children worldwide are approximately 15% less fit than their parents were as children.

An analysis of studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010, which included data on over 25 million children ages 9 to 17 in 28 countries, found that cardiovascular endurance declined significantly during the 46 years studied, with the decline in fitness occurring since approximately 1975.

The researchers said the decline in running fitness may predict worse health in adulthood. Lead author Grant Tomkinson, PhD, of the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences, said that the most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness. Cardiovascular endurance declined significantly, with average changes being similar between boys and girls, younger and older children, and across different world regions. Differences were seen between countries.

In the United States, cardiovascular endurance in children declined an average of 6% per decade between 1970 and 2000; across nations, endurance has fallen by about 5% per decade. Children today run a mile approximately one-and-a-half minutes slower than children did 30 years ago.

Many social, psychosocial and physiological factors are likely responsible for the change, investigators said. Measurements of obesity and overweight mirror the findings in countries studied, and it was concluded that approximately 30% to 60% of the declines in endurance running ability can be linked to increases in fat mass.

Children need to engage in at least one hour of daily activities that use the major muscles and to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy in their adult years, researchers concluded.