Trends in kids' fitness not as bad as assumed

October 31, 2017

Global increases in childhood obesity are frequently assumed to go hand-in-hand with decreased motor performance in young children. But, according to a report in Frontiers in Pediatrics, first graders around Baden-Baden, Germany, have remained reasonably fit over the last ten years.

"It is widely believed that motor performance of children has declined in recent years and we wanted to find out if this is really true," says Sarah Spengler, first author of the study and a researcher at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. "This study tells us that -- at least in this sample -- trends in motor performance in young children are not as bad as expected."

Several reports suggest that fitness among children has declined recently, but there is still little evidence to support this assumption. To further explore this question, Spengler and her colleagues tested the fitness performance of more than 5,000 first graders between the years of 2006 and 2015. Each year, roughly 500 boys and girls from primary schools around Baden-Baden were tested for their motor skills with exercises such as a 6-minute run, a 20-meter sprint, push-ups and balancing exercises. These exercises allowed the researchers to measure the children's aerobic fitness, strength, speed and balance, while simultaneously serving as part of the kids' normal physical education program.

"The study results only partly supported the assumption that motor performance of children has declined," says Spengler. "Aerobic fitness has declined, but only in boys, not girls. In contrast, speed and balance have even increased in both sexes."

The researchers attribute these surprisingly positive results to the increased participation in organized sports throughout Germany over the past several years. They also suggest that the decrease in aerobic fitness among boys may result from an overall decrease in everyday physical activity and shifts to more passive forms of transportation, as shown in other studies.

It is important to note that these data represent a regional sample which is not representative of the rest of Germany, let alone other countries. Even so, although childhood fitness may not be as bad as feared, the researchers still recommend encouraging children to exercise regularly.

"We should still focus on promoting physical activity and motor performance, especially aerobic fitness," says Spengler. "We know that most children do not engage in enough physical activity, compared to current recommendations such as those of the World Health Organization."


Related Physical Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Physical activity in the morning could be most beneficial against cancer
The time of day when we exercise could affect the risk of cancer due to circadian disruption, according to a new study with about 3,000 Spanish people  

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.

Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.

Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Read More: Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to