Is the tide turning for kid's fitness?

February 5, 2018, University of South Australia
Is the tide turning for kid’s fitness?
Credit: University of South Australia

A new study led by the University of South Australia's Dr. Grant Tomkinson has found that although children's cardiorespiratory (CRF) fitness levels declined in the 80s and 90s, they have stabilised since the year 2000.

"Our recent research shows that children's – their ability to perform prolonged and vigorous exercise – declined in wealthy countries across the world throughout the 1980s and 90s, although amazingly, that appears to have slowed and stabilised since then in many countries, including Australia," he says.

"We found that the decline in fitness was larger for boys than for girls. That could be due to the recent promotion of girls' participation in sport and other physical activity initiatives such as the Australian Government's Girls Make our Move program."

Dr. Tomkinson says his data derives mainly from higher-income countries that know the importance of physical activity and have programs in place to encourage kids to be active.

"We found that countries with a widening gap between rich and poor residents had the worst declines in ," he says.

"That widening gap between the rich and the poor residents suggests a trend towards a larger sub-population of poor individuals within a country.

"Poverty is linked to poor social and health outcomes, including lower and CRF levels, increased obesity, lower life expectancy, higher death rates and increased risk of heart and other diseases, mental illness and drug use."

Dr. Tomkinson says that CRF fitness is an important marker of good health and the fourth leading risk factor for heart disease and the research suggests that, poorer children are at the greatest health risk.

"They probably also lack the opportunities, the time, and resources to participate in physical activities that improve or maintain CRF," he says.

Dr. Tomkinson's study looked at fitness trends in one million children between the ages of nine and 17 years from 19 countries using the beep test (a progressive exercise test involving continuous running between two lines in time to recorded beeps which increase in speed).

With future trends impossible to predict, Dr. Tomkinson says he hopes the tide is turning.

"I'm convinced that fitness is still declining in poor countries and will continue to decline for a generation or so," he says.

"However, I hope that our key finding, that fitness has plateaued in rich countries, is the start of some good news in this space and a turning of the tide for the health of the next generation."

The research paper "Temporal trends in the cardiorespiratory of children and adolescents representing 19 high-income and upper middle-income countries between 1981 and 2014" has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine examining whether today's children are fitter than from the past.

Explore further: 50-country comparison of child and youth fitness levels

More information: Grant R Tomkinson et al. Temporal trends in the cardiorespiratory fitness of children and adolescents representing 19 high-income and upper middle-income countries between 1981 and 2014, British Journal of Sports Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097982

Related Stories

50-country comparison of child and youth fitness levels

September 21, 2016
An international research team co-led from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the University of North Dakota studied the aerobic fitness levels of children and youth across 50 countries. The results are ...

Trends in kids' fitness not as bad as assumed

October 31, 2017
Global increases in childhood obesity are frequently assumed to go hand-in-hand with decreased motor performance in young children. But, according to a report in Frontiers in Pediatrics, first graders around Baden-Baden, ...

Children's cardiovascular fitness declining worldwide

November 19, 2013
Many kids don't run as far or fast as their parents did, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013.

Teens need vigorous physical activity and fitness to cut heart risk

January 31, 2018
Guidelines for teenagers should stress the importance of vigorous physical activity and fitness to cut the risk of heart disease, new research suggests.

Fitness in childhood linked to healthy lungs in adulthood

February 1, 2018
Children who are fitter and whose fitness improves during childhood and adolescence have better lung function as young adults, according to a large study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

US teens' cardiorespiratory fitness has dropped in last decade: report

May 28, 2014
(HealthDay)—More and more U.S. teens now fall short when it comes to cardiorespiratory fitness, a new government report shows.

Recommended for you

Genes may control how tough it is to stop drinking

September 25, 2018
(HealthDay)—When they give up booze, some alcoholics have more severe withdrawal symptoms than others. This discrepancy may come down to genetics, researchers say.

Why industry influence on research agendas must be addressed

September 25, 2018
Industry influence on the research agenda—and the tactics employed by tobacco, pharmaceutical, food, mining, chemical and alcohol companies to drive questions away from those most relevant to public health—is the focus ...

Study analyzes numbers, trends in health care data breaches nationwide

September 25, 2018
Health plans—entities that cover the costs of medical care—accounted for the greatest number of patient records breached over the past seven years, according to an analysis of U.S. health care data conducted by two Massachusetts ...

New study finds concurrent use of prescription drugs and dietary supplements could pose health risks

September 25, 2018
A new University of Hertfordshire study found that using certain over-the-counter herbal medicines and dietary supplements alongside prescription drugs could pose serious health risks, especially amongst older adults.

It's not just for kids—even adults appear to benefit from a regular bedtime

September 21, 2018
Sufficient sleep has been proven to help keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. But it's not just an issue of logging at least seven hours of Z's.

Most nations falling short of UN targets to cut premature deaths from chronic diseases

September 21, 2018
People in the UK, US and China have a higher risk of dying early from conditions like cancer, heart disease and stroke than people in Italy, France, South Korea and Australia.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.