Decline in children’s fitness down to sedentary behaviour, not just obesity

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20 November 2013

Research presented today at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, has shown that children’s fitness is declining globally.

Lead researcher of the study, Dr Grant Tomkinson, largely blames the decline on increases in fat mass but speaking at an event on physical activity in children today, Dr Gavin Sandercock a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Physiology at the University of Essex argues that the decline is attributed too much to obesity.

He says “The 5% per decade drop is much higher than we would expect just because of an increase in obesity. We found a 4.3% drop in cardiovascular fitness between 1998 and 2008 in a population where the BMI hadn't gone up at all. 

“The drop is mostly likely due to lower levels of overall physical activity and large increases in sedentary behaviours such as engaging with screen based media particularly social media use in girls and gaming in boys.”

ukactive, a not-for-profit health body campaigning to turn the tide of inactivity, argues that the government needs to do more to get children active. A study released last week by the Medical Research Council shows that the resting pulse rate of UK pre-teens is estimated to have risen by up to two beats per minute during the past 30 years, increasing the risk of heart conditions in later life.

David Stalker, ukactive CEO says “Ofsted and the Department for Education need to ensure that primary and secondary school children are doing at least one hour of physical activity per day in order to improve their future health and fitness prospects. 

“Active children become active adults but I’m saddened to say that without a step change in strategy by government, this decline will continue and the fitness of our children will keep on deteriorating.”

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