November 20, 2013
Cardiovascular Fitness In US Children On The Decline
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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineModern-day children are approximately 15 percent less fit from a cardiovascular standpoint than their parents were as kids, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013 conference in Dallas on Tuesday.
Lead researcher Dr. Grant Tomkinson of the University of South Australia's School of Health Sciences and his colleagues reviewed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010.
Those research papers pertained to over 25 million youngsters between the ages of 9 and 17 in 28 countries, and gauged cardiovascular endurance on the distance children could run in a set time, or the time it took for them to run a predetermined distance.
“Tests typically lasted five to 15 minutes or covered a half-mile to two miles,” the AHA said in a statement. The researchers found that “cardiovascular endurance declined significantly within the 46 years,” and that the average changes “were similar between boys and girls, younger and older kids, and across different regions, although they varied country to country.”
The research is said to be the first to demonstrate that the cardiovascular fitness levels of children throughout the world have decreased since 1975. The found that, on average, kids today are approximately 1.5 minutes slower completing a mile run than children in the same age range were three decades ago.
In the US, cardiovascular endurance levels dropped an average of six percent each decade between 1970 and 2000, while internationally the endurance rate declined consistently approximately five percent every 10 years. They also found that decline in running fitness could indicate worse health when they become adults.
“If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life.” Dr. Tomkinson said in a statement. “Young people can be fit in different ways. They can be strong like a weightlifter, or flexible like a gymnast, or skillful like a tennis player.”
However, “not all of these types of fitness relate well to health. The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time, like running multiple laps around an oval track,” he added, explaining that declines in cardiovascular endurance levels are likely caused by a combination of behavioral, physical, physiological, psychosocial and sociological factors.
According to Tomkinson, about 30 to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increasing body fat and obesity levels across all countries, suggesting that one of these two things could be the cause of the other. He asserts that children should engage about 60 minutes worth of daily physical activities that require use of the larger muscle groups, including running, cycling or swimming.
“We need to help to inspire children and youth to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy now and into the future,” Tomkinson explained. “They need to choose a range of physical activities they like or think they might like to try, and they need to get moving.”