Children Are Less Fit Than 10 Years Ago

Puppy fat is not healthy into childhoodThe results of a 10 year study have just been released which shows that children of a healthy weight are less fit today than they were 10 years ago. The results have been published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The study tested the fitness of a group of 10 year old children in 1998, and then repeated the test on another group of 10 year old children in 2008. The study took place in Chelmsford, England, where children are generally of a healthy weight. The test involved testing 303 children with 20m shuttle run tests – commonly known as the bleep tests. Heart rate and recovery time were monitored to determine fitness levels.

“The measurement of obesity alone may not be sufficient to keep an eye on children’s future health. We need some form of monitoring of fitness. We have a generation of children who are spending more and more time in front of a screen, whether it is a TV or a computer. Schools are now trying to do more, but it is the lack of unstructured activity outside that is the problem.” Dr Gavin Sandercock, Essex University.

However, even though in both groups the children were not overweight or obese, the 2008 fitness test showed that on average children are less fit.

“the average 10-year-old in 1998 could beat 95% of youngsters in 2008 in running tests”

A more sedentary lifestyle has been blamed for this. Children are more likely to play computer games or just spend time chatting to friends on Facebook or MySpace than doing active hobbies or sports. Even those that do not overeat are less fit.

The Faculty of Public Health points out that in recent years there has been too much emphasis on obesity. Fitness is in decline as well, and often people who appear to be a healthy weight are assumed to be healthy.

This is further evidence to support the general rule that diet makes you slimmer but not always healthier, and fitness is vital to health. Past studies have shown that sometimes men that are slightly overweight but lead and active lifestyle are actually healthier than sedentary men that are of an ideal weight.

Dr Gavin Sandercock that led the research is a lecturer in Clinical Physiology (Cardiology) and is interested in child health, sports and fitness research, covering these topics:

  • Cardiac autonomic function.
  • Cardiovascular disease prevention and rehabilitation.
  • Paediatric exercise physiology.
  • Paediatric obesity and its relation to fitness and activity levels.
  • Measures of overtraining and overrearching syndrome in athletes.


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