Cardiovascular endurance in children has declined significantly across the world since 1975, new research has found.
A study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013 showed that today’s children are roughly 15% less fit, from a cardiovascular standpoint, than their parents were as youngsters. In a mile run, children are likely to be around a minute and a half slower than their peers 30 years ago.
Grant Tomkinson, lead author of the report and senior lecturer in the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences, said, “If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life.”
Researchers analysed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million children across 28 counties. They measured how far kids could run in a set amount of time or how long it took to complete a certain distance.
The results varied from county to country, but across all nations endurance has declined consistently by around 5% every decade. The findings mirrored measurements of overweight/obesity and body fat in each country.
“In fact, about 30 to 60% of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass”, Tomkinson explained. He added that it is likely that social, behavioural, physical, psychosocial and physiological factors have also played a part in the decline.
Several studies have measured how modern lifestyles are impacting on children.
An eight-year-old girl recently became the youngest person in China to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Her doctor blamed air pollution.
In 2012, Jonathan Grigg, a professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University London, spoke to Blue and Green Tomorrow about the evidence linking fossil fuel particulates to the health of children.
“In terms of children’s health, and it’s true to some extent in adults, fossil fuel derived particles certainly make asthma worse”, he said.
According to charity UNICEF, the effects of climate change threaten 700 million children across the world. These children will not only be affected by extreme weather but also face a host of other problems such as hunger and disease.