Babies and children * Young people * Healthy living

Child fitness levels falling in UK

Even in those who are not obese

Child fitness levels in the UK are falling twice as fast as the average rate for the rest of the world, even in children who are not obese, new research has found.

Worldwide, child fitness levels have fallen by around 4% in the past ten years - but they've fallen about 8% in the UK.

Researchers from Essex University assessed the fitness levels of over 300 ten year olds from Chelmsford, in Essex, which ranks among the top 20% most affluent areas in the UK.

All were weighed and took part in "shuttle runs," designed to test cardiorespiratory fitness in 1998. The tests were repeated on a further 315 children in 2008.

Over the past decade, results for girls showed their body mass index had remained the same, but their fitness levels had fallen by 9%. Although boys average weights rose only slightly, their fitness levels also fell, by 7%.

On average, the children's fitness levels had fallen twice as fast as the global average rate.

The findings, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggest fitness levels may be more important than BMI when it comes to assessing a child's overall health.

“Measurement of BMI alone may not be sufficient to monitor children’s future health, as health benefits associated with higher cardiorespiratory fitness are independent of BMI,” the researchers said.

This article was published on Tue 22 December 2009

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