Are children fit and active?

Neil Armstrong reviews the evidence on whether children are fit and active, and looks at how the situation has changed in recent years

A SEDENTARY ADULT LIFESTYLE IS associated with increased mortality. The effect of regular physical activity and physical fitness in improving blood lipid profile, reducing high blood pressure, helping to control blood glucose, countering obesity, delaying the onset of osteoporosis and promoting psychological well-being is evidence-based and extensively documented. Although the evidence is less compelling than in adults, appropriate physical activity and high levels of fitness during youth have been associated with the promotion of skeletal health, the improvement of elements of metabolic syndrome, the reduction of body fatness and enhanced mental health. Furthermore, there is a growing conviction that adults’ health and well-being has its origins in behaviour established during childhood and adolescence. Inactive and/or unfit children are unlikely to become physically active and  fit adults. But, are our children fit and active?

What we know
● 60-75% of young people do not meet current physical activity guidelines.
● Youth habitual physical activity has not declined over the last two decades.
● There is no evidence to suggest that young people have low levels of aerobic fitness, and children and adolescents are as aerobically fit as previous generations.
● There is no meaningful relationship between current levels of habitual physical activity and aerobic fitness.
● Low levels of habitual physical activity and a decline in maximal performance involving the transport of body mass are major issues in the promotion of youth health and well-being.

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June 2012