Kids lag behind their parents in physical fitness worldwide

Research from the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions of 2013 suggests that kids don't run as far or as fast as their parents did at their age.

Worldwide, children are about 15 percent less fit than their parents were as youngsters, and in the U.S. alone, kids' cardiovascular performance declined about 6 percent between 1970 and 2000.

Indications for health?

The results of the study could indicate that children are more likely to have worse health in adulthood, the researchers said.

“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.

The study also showed that kids today run a mile about 90 seconds slower than their parents did 30 years ago.

Possible causes

Declines in cardiovascular performance could be caused by a variety of social, physiological and physical factors, Tomkinson said, but extra weight is the most likely culprit.

“About 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass,” Tomkinson explained.

To combat the problem, kids should engage in at least 60 minutes of daily activities – like running, biking or swimming – that use the body's larger muscle groups.

“We need to help to inspire children and youth to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy now and into the future,” Tomkinson said. “They need to choose a range of physical activities they like or think they might like to try, and they need to get moving.”

Source: American Heart Association

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