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Study indicates decline in heart-related fitness in youth

Parents may cite examples from their childhood in an effort to discipline or set an example for their children. At times, it may be hard to parse the objective factual details of such stories from the subjective aspects contributed by memory. A recent study, however, finds that there be might truth to at least one area of comparison.

Specifically, research presented by the American Heart Association at a recent conference indicates that today’s kids have lower levels of cardiovascular fitness than their peers thirty years ago. In other words, kids are not as fit as their parents were. On the one mile run, for example, today’s youth take a 90 seconds longer.

However, researchers note that the decline has not been sudden, but gradual. Since 1975, youth between the ages of nine and 17 have declined in heart-related fitness an average of five percent each decade. A lower level of physical activity is the suspected culprit. Although experts recommend at least 60 minutes of physical activity or sport each day, only about one-third of American youth are getting that level of daily exercise.

Of course, it’s hardly newsworthy to cite the benefits of physical exercise. Yet the steady decline in physical fitness of American’s youth over the past 30 years is reason for pause. Cardiovascular health resulting from daily exercise does more than just build muscle and shed pounds.

In the long-term, a strong heart and circulatory system may provide defense against disabilities associated with aging or a sedentary lifestyle, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, respiratory impairments, and perhaps even certain autoimmune diseases.    

Source: usatoday.com, “Kids less fit than their parents were, study finds,” Nov. 19, 2013

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