According to a new Australian study, kids today run slower — about 90 seconds slower in the one-mile run — than their parents. The study, which reviewed data collected from 25 million people over a period of 47 years (1964-2010), also showed that American children’s cardiovascular endurance declined an average of 6 percent per year between 1970-2000. Joan Raymond says one reason kids are slower is that they aren’t getting the CDC-recommended 60 minutes per day of physical activity:
The reason is simple: they’re carrying too much body fat, making it “more difficult [for them] to move through space,” explains lead researcher Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences, whose research was presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Dallas.
Beyond battling obesity, kids also have to contend with an environment that is toxic to activity, he says.
“It’s not that kid’s today can’t perform as well as say their parents, but it’s just that they don’t perform as well,” says Tomkinson, citing lack of green space, suburbanization, changes in school-based physical education programs, and too much screen time watching TV or playing video games as likely contributors to diminished cardio fitness.
And there are even more benefits from getting our kids in better shape physically:
“Improving fitness also improves self-esteem, improves mood, reduces depression and even improves academic performance,” says Tomkinson. “It’s just a little investment that can lead to fantastic changes now and in adulthood.”
This study points to a general trend. Obviously, your mileage may vary depending on family traits, as well as geography. If parents are sedentary, their kids are more likely to be sedentary. There are more active things to do where the climate is warmer for most of the year than where things get nippy. I think a huge factor in rising BMI’s in young people is the fact that people just eat more now, especially processed foods and sugar: we eat more calories, and the wrong type of calories. The old saying — “garbage in, garbage out” — is what happens when kids try to run a mile on a lousy diet.