Why kids aren’t running

Why kids aren’t running

In a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013, researchers said the decline in running fitness may indicate worse health in adulthood.

“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 in a statement. Tomkinson is the lead author of the study and senior lecturer at the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences.

“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. But 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.”

Researchers analyzed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million kids, ages 9 to 17, in 28 countries. They gauged cardiovascular endurance by how far kids could run in a set time or how long it took to run a set distance. Tests typically lasted five to 15 minutes or covered a half-mile to two miles.

Cardiovascular endurance declined significantly within the 46 years, the researchers found. Average changes were similar between boys and girls, younger and older kids, and across different regions, although they varied country to country.

The study is the first to show that kids’ cardiovascular fitness has declined around the globe since about 1975. This is indicated by the following facts:

  • In the United States, kids’ cardiovascular endurance fell an average 6 percent per decade between 1970 and 2000.
  • Across nations, endurance has declined consistently by about 5 percent every decade.
  • Kids today are roughly 15 percent less fit from a cardiovascular standpoint than their parents were as youngsters.
  • In a mile run, kids today are about a minute and a half slower than their peers 30 years ago.

Declines in cardiovascular endurance performance are probably caused by social, behavioral, physical, psychosocial and physiological factors, Tomkinson said.

“These findings are particularly disturbing because of the long-term effects on kids’ cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Sid Gandhi, cardiologist with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill. “Unfortunately, most young people don’t realize the importance of developing good heart health habits early in life – in their teens, twenties and even into their thirties. Making just a few small changes, like putting down the video game controller and being active for at least an hour a day, or replacing sugary snacks with fruits and vegetables, can have a huge impact on your cardiovascular health as you age. It’s important for young people to form these healthy habits now so that their heart health is easier to manage in their forties and beyond.”

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center is a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s “My Heart. My Life” platform – an initiative focused on healthy living through education, advocacy and community efforts that reinforce the value of eating well and being physically active. 

Together, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and the American Heart Association work to implement programs throughout McLean County, Illinois that motivate people to get active, and live longer, stronger lives.

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American Heart Association
American Heart Association

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center is a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s “My Heart. My Life” platform - an initiative focused on healthy living through education, advocacy and community efforts that reinforce the value of eating well and being physically active. Together, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and the American Heart Association work to implement programs throughout McLean County, Illinois that motivate people to get active, and live longer, stronger lives.