U.S. Children’s Fitness Levels Lower Than Others

Posted 11/07/2016 | By HealthCorps

A new report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine offers a review of the aerobic fitness levels of children and teens from 50 countries.  Unfortunately, the results confirm that U.S. kids are at the back of the pack.

Highlights of the study included:

·         Top five fittest countries were Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway and Japan

·         Canada placed 19 out of 50 countries

·         America placed 47 out of 50 countries

Senior author of the study, Grant Tomkinson, associate professor of kinesiology in the University of North Dakota College of Education and Human Development pointed out that American children fared very poorly, while close neighbor Canada placed in the middle of the pack.  The study is one of the largest to assess kids’ fitness levels and engagement worldwide.

Kids were asked to perform the beep test, a 20 meter shuffle, and data was collected from 1.1 million kids and teens ages 9 – 17, from 50 countries.  The beep test is the most popular standardized field tests, which helps to assess the aerobic fitness levels of kids.

The researchers point out that kids who are aerobically fit also tend to be healthy.  Healthy kids, who regularly engage with fitness activities, tend to grow up to be healthier adults.  So researchers feel that studying overall fitness levels of kids is a pretty good indicator of childhood population health.

Another finding in the study was that income inequality or the gap between rich and poor (measured by the Gini Index) correlates strongly to fitness.  Kids who come from countries where the gap is smaller (which means a better level of equality among the population) appear to have better fitness.

With cuts in physical education time in schools, long school days, and other social issues, it’s important for parents to find ways to inspire their kids to move daily.  Some tips to help your kids get moving:

·         Get kids involved in after school and weekend sports

·         Before or after your child has their after-school-snack, get them moving with outdoor or indoor physical playtime

·         Have the family wear pedometers and reward your kids when they meet step goals, or when they out-step you

·         Introduce mini-trampolines, jump ropes, and ball games to your kids.

·         See if your local community center has affordable or free after-school sports, dance or swim activities

·         See if your local gym allows kids to come and exercise with their parents

·         Organize neighborhood walks, runs, competitions and sports activities

·         Walk your kids to school

Introducing babies and toddlers to fun physical activities helps to ensure that they will continue to engage with fitness through their childhood and teen years.  Current Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Guidelines recommend that children and teens get one hour or more of physical exercise daily with age-appropriate activities.

Parents should try to help their kids to meet these guidelines and model these behaviors too!!

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