Thursday, November 21, 2013

Children Are Less Fit Today

Children's fitness have declined significantly worldwide over the last 46 years. The evidence was just presented by Australian researchers at the American Heart Association conference recently. An analysis of 50 studies on more than 25 million children age 9 to 17 in 28 countries around the world (Singapore included) between 1964 and 2010 showed that kids today are not running as fast or as far compared to their parents.

And this spells bed news as healthcare costs look set to rise. Why? If a young person is unfit now, chances are they may more likely develop conditions like heart diseases later on in life according to lead researcher Grant Tomkinson.

Tests were done to measure how far the kids could run in a set time (usually between five to fifteen minutes) or how long they took to run a half mile to two miles. Overall, the kids today are about 15% less aerobically fit than children 30 years ago. This is about 90 seconds slowed when running a mile (or about 1.6km).

Being unfit for kids also mean that they may not learn as well and quickly compared to fitter kids. Other studies show that active pre teens are helps academic performance. More on those studies at a later post.

In Singapore, the aerobic performances of 3300 Singaporean children between 9 to 17 years tested in 1980 and retested in 1991 remained fairly stable, declining just less than 1 per cent. This is much better than the 5.5% decline internationally. However, before we rejoice prematurely, the researchers could not find any published data for Singaporean children after 1992 so we do not know for sure how our kids compare thereafter.

I grew up in Singapore in the 80's and do remember being tested yearly (so my cohort fared fairly well then according to the data). Am wondering what happened to the data in the 90's then (since the researchers could not find any data published).

The researchers suggested that the drop in endurance running performance is due to increases in fat mass. They also suggested that kids should engage in at least 60 minutes of exercise that involves the body's big muscles such as running, swimming etc.

You can read more from here.

*Picture of the 2013 Cold Storage Kids Run by

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