An international analysis of children’s fitness has revealed that today’s kids can’t run as far or as fast as their parents could at their age. More from The Associated Press:
On average, it takes children 90 seconds longer to run a mile than their counterparts did 30 years ago. Heart-related fitness has declined 5 percent per decade since 1975 for children ages 9 to 17.
The American Heart Association, whose conference featured the research on Tuesday, says it’s the first to show that children’s fitness has declined worldwide over the last three decades.
‘‘It makes sense. We have kids that are less active than before,’’ said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and spokesman for the heart association.
Health experts recommend that children 6 and older get 60 minutes of moderately vigorous activity accumulated over a day. Only one-third of American kids do now.
‘‘Kids aren’t getting enough opportunities to build up that activity over the course of the day,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘Many schools, for economic reasons, don’t have any physical education at all. Some rely on recess’’ to provide exercise.
Sam Kass, a White House chef and head of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, stressed the role of schools in a speech to the conference on Monday.
‘‘We are currently facing the most sedentary generation of children in our history,’’ Kass said.
The new study was led by Grant Tomkinson, an exercise physiologist at the University of South Australia. Researchers analyzed 50 studies on running fitness — a key measure of cardiovascular health and endurance — involving 25 million children ages 9 to 17 in 28 countries from 1964 to 2010.
Some 30,000 Boy Scouts and 7,000 leaders gathered July 15 in West Virginia for the annual National Scouts Jamboree, and for the second time in the event’s history, each of them was subject to a body mass index (BMI) cutoff that was designed to prohibit obese or unhealthilyoverweight people from participating in the event. The standard, organizers say, is in place to protect the health and safety of participants, as the Jamboree is packed with physical activities ranging from hiking to rock climbing.
“This policy is not meant to keep anyone out at all, and it’s just to make sure that they’re safe,” Boy Scouts of America’s public relations director Deron Smith told CNN. “We offer thousands of summer camp experiences (that) do not have this requirement.”
But Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta pediatrician, told CNN, “Any organization can make their own rules, but as a pediatrician I feel like we should be promoting physical activity for everybody, be as inclusive as possible, and only exclude from activity if there’s a physical threat to their health,” she said.
Boys whose BMI is slightly lower than 40, but who are still considered obese for their height can be admitted to the Jamboree, but they are subject to additional health scrutiny, including a personal health recommendation from a health care provider.
Physical exercise might help children cope with the effects of acute everyday stress, according to a new study conducted in Finland and published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Though the study did not control for factors like sugar intake or chronic, baseline levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, it did find that physical activity was related to better, more resilient responses to stress. The New York Times has more:
Finnish researchers had 258 8-year-old boys and girls wear accelerometers on their wrists for at least four days that registered the quality and quantity of their physical activity. Their parents used cotton swabs to take saliva samples at various times throughout a single day, which the researchers used to assess levels of cortisol, a hormone typically induced by physical or mental stress.
There was no difference in the cortisol levels at home between children who were active and those who were less active. But when the researchers gave the children a standard psychosocial stress test at a clinic involving arithmetic and storytelling challenges, they found that those who had not engaged in physical activity had raised cortisol levels. The children who had moderate or vigorous physical activity showed relatively no rise in cortisol levels.
Those results indicate a more positive physiological response to stress by children who were more active, the researchers said in a study that was published this week in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The children who were least active had the highest levels.
“This study shows that children who are more active throughout their day have a better hormonal response to an acute stressful situation,” said Disa Hatfield, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island, who was not involved in the study.
First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance on comedian Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show to raise awareness for her “Let’s Move” campaign, which works to inspire families to combat childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes by adopting active lifestyles. The clip featured Obama and Fallon demonstrating “Mom Dancing” moves that are sure to give moms a giggle, ranging from “Raise the Roof” to the classic “Where’s Your Father (Get Him Back Here)!” Video clip below.
At 9 years old, Breanna Bond weighed 186 pounds, a number that had her doctor and her family alike worried for her health in an age of childhood obesity and rampant Type II diabetes that affects an estimated 12.5 million U.S. children. As CNN.com reports, the involvement of the whole family was the key motivating factor that helped Breanna shed 65 pounds:
“Conversations about a child’s weight can be fraught with psychological landmines, says Dr. Denise Wilfley, director of the Weight Management & Eating Disorders Program at Washington University School of Medicine.
“Mainly what we suggest is actually having the whole family take on a healthier lifestyle — for everybody to eat as well as possible, as nutritiously as possible, so the overweight child is not singled out,” she says.
Wilfley encourages parents in her programs to “walk the walk” and be a role model for their children. She talks about food as energy for kids’ bodies — eating better will help them think harder, jump higher, play more.
Her families try to follow the traffic light diet, with green-light foods such as vegetables, yellow-light foods such as lean protein and red-light foods such as sweets or simple carbohydrates.
“We focus a lot on not defining self-worth by the number on the scale,” she says. “The best way to prevent eating disorders is having very healthy eating patterns.”
[Heidi] Bond realized that in order to get [her daughter] Breanna to exercise regularly, they would had to make it a family activity. The Bonds started walking four miles, four days a week, on a trail near their home in Clovis, California.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Bond says. “There were times where she refused to move.” But in the end, “a little tough love to save the rest of their life” was worth it, she says.
It’s best to avoid a power struggle when it comes to exercise and healthy eating, according to Jelalian. She says it’s easy for parents to become the “food police” without getting at the deeper issues. Parents should ask why a child wants a certain food or doesn’t want to work out and problem-solve with them to find a healthy alternative.
She recommends parents give their kids a choice as much as possible — not about being active or not active, but about what activity they want to do.
“It really takes that balance in parenting of being firm — this part is not negotiable, but being warm, caring in how you do that.”
Identifying your child’s motivation for losing weight is key, Wilfley says. Do they want to be able to run faster? Play football? Avoid teasing at school? Combining that goal with incentives such as sleepovers or family outings should help to keep a child motivated.”