Research finds kids slowed down over past 30 years


DALLAS — Today’s kids can’t keep up with their parents. An analysis of studies on millions of children around the world finds they don’t run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were young.

On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.

The American Heart Association, whose conference featured the research on Tuesday, said it’s the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the past three decades.

“It makes sense. We have kids that are less active than before,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and spokesman for the heart association.

Health experts recommend that children 6 and older get 60 minutes of moderately vigorous activity accumulated over a day. Only one-third of American kids do now.

Led by Grant Tomkinson, an exercise physiologist at the University of South Australia, researchers analyzed 50 studies on running fitness involving 25 million children ages 9 to 17 in 28 countries from 1964 to 2010.

The studies measured how far children could run in 5 to 15 minutes and how quickly they ran a certain distance, ranging from a half-mile to two miles. Today’s kids are about 15 percent less fit than their parents were, researchers concluded.

“The changes are very similar for boys and girls and also for various ages,” but differed by geographic region, Tomkinson said.

The decline in fitness seems to be leveling off in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and perhaps in the past few years in North America.

However, it continues to fall in China, and Japan never had much falloff — fitness has remained fairly consistent there. About 20 million of the 25 million children in the studies were from Asia.

Tomkinson and Daniels said obesity probably plays a role. Too much time watching television and playing video games and unsafe neighborhoods with not enough options for outdoor play also may play a role, they said.

World Health Organization numbers suggest that 80 percent of young people globally may not be getting enough exercise.

 

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