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Kids Today: 'Less Active Than Before' and Declining in Heart Health

New research shows that globally, kids' cardiovascular health is in decline

Common Dreams staff

"We have kids that are less active than before," said Dr. Stephen Daniels. (Photo: Omar Chatriwala/cc/flickr)

The cardiovascular health of kids across the globe has fallen, according to research presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

Today's kids are running more slowly and with less endurance than their parents did, the researchers found.

Based on an analysis of data covering 1964 to 2010, the study found that kids now are about 15 percent less heart healthy than their parents were as youngsters. In the U.S., the study found that from 1970 to  2000 kids' cardiovascular endurance fell an average of 6 percent per decade.

And this doesn't bode well for the young generation, stated Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., lead author of the study and senior lecturer in the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences, because "The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness."

“If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life,” Tomkinson stated.

There's also the connection to being overweight or obese.  “In fact, about 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass,” Tomkinson said.

The decline in cardiovascular health "makes sense," said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and spokesman for the heart association. "We have kids that are less active than before."

Today adds:

Beyond battling obesity, kids also have to contend with an environment that is toxic to activity, [Tomkinson] 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.


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