Our Kids: Less Fit Than We?

It seems hard to believe (and sad), but maybe not so when I look at my couch-potato, computer-nerd son: our kids are less fit than we were when we were young.

Remember running around your neighbors' yards with your friends, hiking in the woods behind your house, chasing the dog, and, in my neighborhood in the summer, not having to come home until you heard the fire station foghorn, marking 8 p.m.?

Today's kids don't seem to have those kinds of pleasures.  Just about every play date when my son was little involved a car, and our busy road is too dangerous to ride a bike.  Sometimes we take a walk in nice weather but that's about all he really wants to do that's physical.

(Of course, when a close friend lived nearby, they played soccer endlessly, but then Michael moved away.)

A new study has found that, around the world, children don't run as fast or as far as their parents did when they were kids, and today's kids are about 15% less aerobically fit than their parents were at this age.

I guess you could blame some of it on all the visual and video devices around today that are much easier (and more fun, let's face it) than running a mile.

According to medicalnewstoday.com, it's not just obesity that's a problem, due to this more lethargic generation, but our kids will also be far more likely to face cardiac disease and other illnesses when they're older.

Kids' cardiovascular endurance has fallen by 46% over the 50 years of the study, declining 5% per year, according to lead author Dr. Grant Tomkinson of the University of South Australia's School of Health Sciences, who presented these findings at a recent meeting of cardiologists in Texas.

While kids are lifting weights and performing gymnastics, some of the more popular athletic endeavors today, and they certainly require energy and stamina, it's aerobic activities that benefit the heart the most.  (I've been a runner -- slow, but steady -- for many years and when I recently had an ER visit for a fall, I was asked if I had a heart problem because my pulse was so slow.  Thanks, running!)

But Dr. Tomkinson says it's more than just video games holding our kids back, it's social, behavioral and physiological issues, too. Some of us are just too fat to exercise!  Medicalnewstoday.com notes that 30 to 60% of the decline in running endurance can be explained "by increases in body fat."

What's the best exercise for kids?  Running multiple laps around an oval track, the cardiologist tells medicalnewstoday.com.  And not just for five minutes (like my son) but 80 minutes a day, 20 minutes vigorously.

Hear those screams?  They're coming from my son.  I just took away his Xbox and made him get ready to accompany me on a jog.


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