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Study shows kids aren't as fit as their parents were

A study done by the American Heart Association has found that children today are less fit than their parents were at the same age. The study focused on cardiovascular health in kids around the globe, as well as specifically in the U.S.

Study highlights
The research was presented at the AHA's Scientific Sessions in Dallas on Nov. 19, 2013. The researchers for the AHA looked at 50 separate studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million kids ages 9 to 17 in 28 countries. Cardiovascular fitness was measured by how far kids could run in a set time or how long it took to run a specific distance.

Researchers found that cardiovascular health has been on an alarming decline the past 46 years. These changes were consistent regardless of gender, age or region within the United States. However, there were some differences between kids of different countries. 

In the U.S., children's cardiovascular endurance decreased an average 6 percent per decade between 1970 and 2000. To put it another way, today children are about 15 percent less fit in a cardiovascular sense than their parents were at a similar age. Another way to say it is that kids are now about a minute and a half slower than their peers 30 years ago when measured in a mile run.

Causes of the decline
This decrease in heart health can be attributed to social, behavioral, physical, psychosocial and physiological factors. The study's lead author, Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., suggested that about 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in running performance are due to increases in fat mass in children's bodies. He recommended that kids get at least an hour of exercise a day that involves the use of the body's big muscles. This includes activities such as running, swimming or cycling. 

"We need to help to inspire children and youth to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy now and into the future," Tomkinson said at the Scientific Sessions. "They need to choose a range of physical activities they like or think they might like to try, and they need to get moving."

Getting kids active
Fortunately, every park district and township provides residents with access to children's sports teams. With baseball, basketball, hockey and more, there are plenty of opportunities to get kids out and moving. An hour is a standard practice time, which meets Tomkinson's recommendation. However, practices don't usually take place everyday, so families should work out extra activity time. 

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