Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
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.
Image: Running feet, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Children who exercise regularly and who are in good physical condition are better able to absorb and retain information in school, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More from The New York Times:
[Researchers recruited] a group of local 9- and 10-year-old boys and girls, testing their aerobic fitness on a treadmill, and then asking 24 of the most fit and 24 of the least fit to come into the exercise physiology lab and work on some difficult memorization tasks.
Learning is, of course, a complex process, involving not only the taking in and storing of new information in the form of memories, a process known as encoding, but also recalling that information later. Information that cannot be recalled has not really been learned.
Earlier studies of children’s learning styles have shown that most learn more readily if they are tested on material while they are in the process of learning it. In effect, if they are quizzed while memorizing, they remember more easily. Straight memorization, without intermittent reinforcement during the process, is tougher, although it is also how most children study.
In this case, the researchers opted to use both approaches to learning, by providing their young volunteers with iPads onto which several maps of imaginary lands had been loaded. The maps were demarcated into regions, each with a four-letter name. During one learning session, the children were shown these names in place for six seconds. The names then appeared on the map in their correct position six additional times while children stared at and tried to memorize them.
In a separate learning session, region names appeared on a different map in their proper location, then moved to the margins of the map. The children were asked to tap on a name and match it with the correct region, providing in-session testing as they memorized.
A day later, all of the children returned to the lab and were asked to correctly label the various maps’ regions.
The results, published last week in PLoS One, show that, over all, the children performed similarly when they were asked to recall names for the map when their memorization was reinforced by testing.
But when the recall involved the more difficult type of learning — memorizing without intermittent testing — the children who were in better aerobic condition significantly outperformed the less-fit group, remembering about 40 percent of the regions’ names accurately, compared with barely 25 percent accuracy for the out-of-shape kids.
This finding suggests that “higher levels of fitness have their greatest impact in the most challenging situations” that children face intellectually, the study’s authors write. The more difficult something is to learn, the more physical fitness may aid children in learning it.
Image: Kids playing at recess, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, March 11th, 2013
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.
Image: Child climbing on playground, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Although parents have expressed vocal concern that a yoga program in place in five Encinitas, California schools are religiously inappropriate because of the practice’s Hindu roots, organizers of the program say the it will continue and expand to all nine of the city’s elementary schools. Proponents of the program say that it is part of an important physical education and healthy living program designed to help kids care for their bodies and regulate their emotions.
More from the local public radio station, KPBS.org:
Schools across the country are focusing more on teaching students to make healthy choices. Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird said yoga is just one part of the district’s physical education curriculum.
“We also have a nutrition program, we also have a life skills program where kids learn about perseverance and responsibility,” he said.
The whole wellness program is supported by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation. The Encinitas-based group promotes a kind of yoga called Ashtanga.
But, when Mary Eady visited a yoga class at her son’s Encinitas school last year, she saw much more than a fitness program.
“They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth,” she said, “and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercises.”
Those looked like religious teachings to Eady, so she opted her son out of the classes. The more she reads about the Jois Foundation and its founders’ beliefs in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga, the more convinced Eady is that it can’t be separated from its Hindu roots.
“It’s stated in the curriculum that it’s meant to shape the way that they view the world, it’s meant to shape the way that they make life decisions,” she said. “It’s meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves.”
Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.
“And then the question becomes – if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal,” he said. “I mean that’s the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program.”
Eady and the other parents want the classes made completely voluntary and moved to before or after the school day. They say school officials haven’t responded to their specific concerns.
Image: Child doing yoga, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
Children under the age of six should have at least three hours of exercise each day, according to a report written by a consortium of pediatric groups from the U.K., the U.S., and Australia. Boston.com reports on the paper, which was published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine:
The new guidelines are partly in response to the soaring obesity rates among young children. For example, 26.7 percent of US children between the ages of two and five are obese or overweight, researchers Russell Pate and Jennifer O’Neill, of the University of South Carolina, wrote. Plus, studies have shown that young children rarely get the activity they need. According to studies using accelerometers (wristwatch-like devices that measure physical activity), preschool-age kids get only sporadic exercise, with very little of it vigorous. For children under six, experts generally advise a combination of light activity and energetic activity throughout the day.
The experts listed a number of activities that qualify for both the “light” and “energetic” categories, including walking, dancing, skipping rope, and hide-and-seek type games.
Image: Kids playing, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment