The obesity debate is an ongoing issue in the UK and Christopher Allen of the British Heart Foundation reminds us that “it ‘s well established that being physically inactive in childhood can have serious health implications later in life” when speaking at the American Heart Association ‘s annual meeting.
Recent research has shown that many children struggle to run a mile as quickly as their parents could when they were young. The study of global fitness, involving 25 million children in 28 different countries showed a variation of 90 seconds between children and their parents. These results further support that children’s fitness levels across the globe are declining, as cardiovascular endurance can indicate overall fitness levels.
Lead Researcher of the study, Dr Grant Tomkinson of the University of South Australia, quotes that “about 30% to 60% of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass. ” Furher to this, Dr Tomkinson warns that if young people are unfit and carry excess fat now, they are more likely to get obesity related diseases in later life.
This problem is largely related to Western countries, but other parts of the world such as South Korea, Hong Kong and mainland China are also seeing these trends. Dr Tomkinson suggests that inspiring and encouraging children to do more strenuous exercise could help the problem.
Professor Michael Gwitz of the American Heart Association says that “the type of exercise is really important. ” He says that exercise must “make you sweat” and be “sustained and dynamic” in order to improve cardiovascular fitness in children.
Furthermore, the time spent exercising is crucial. It is recommended that children do one hour of physical activity per day to stay healthy. This can be split into chunks and can include activities such as walking to school, as well as more structured exercise in PE or sports clubs.
Professor Michael Gwitz states that “by encouraging children to get active, we can help protect their hearts as they grow up.” However, being physically active is a lifestyle that needs to be adopted in all areas of life. It is the responsibility of parents, schools and the community to provide opportunities to be physically active, whilst providing a fun, stimulating and inspiring environment.