About 60% of American children are not aerobically fit and this can cause long-term health problems: Experts

Aerobic fitness or cardiorespiratory fitness is the body's ability to provide oxygen to muscles during physical activity


                            About 60% of American children are not aerobically fit and this can cause long-term health problems: Experts
(Getty Images)

About 60% of American children are not aerobically fit, heightening their odds of developing health issues from type 2-diabetes to heart ailments, suggests a statement from the American Heart Association. The consequences could be far-reaching as these kids may grow up to suffer a stroke or a premature death due to heart disorders. Aerobic fitness or cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is the body's ability to provide oxygen to muscles during physical activity. It has a bearing on physical health and overall fitness, according to researchers. What is more, children ranking high on aerobic fitness tend to do well in academics and have better mental health.

“CRF is a single measure that shows how strong the heart, lungs, and blood circulation are in children. Whereas measuring body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels tell us about each of these individual risk factors, measuring CRF provides a comprehensive assessment of a child’s overall health,” said Dr Geetha Raghuveer, chair of the writing committee for the new scientific statement, a cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri, both in Kansas City, Missouri. The experts looked at data before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Children ranking high on aerobic fitness tend to do well in academics (Getty Images)

What affects aerobic fitness?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only one in three kids get their daily dose of physical activities. Worse, a 2013 study found fitness levels among children have plummeted in the last 30 years. Researchers pin the blame on increased weight gain as it is likely to bring down the cardiorespiratory fitness levels. Another explanation could be a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers suspect that TV, videogames, and computers have replaced outdoor activities. But one study that analyzed previous research found that a sedentary lifestyle is linked with low cardiorespiratory fitness levels in children, but not among teens.

The evidence linking genes with aerobic fitness is weak, according to researches. However, sex plays a role, with boys having a higher aerobic score than girls. Social factors have a bearing too. These include socioeconomic status and neighborhood characteristics. Studies have shown that children from low-income families may not have access to safe places to exercise and may not consume healthy and nutritious food. Besides, some schools do not set time for physical activities.

Sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming will also help, say experts (Getty Images)

Experts recommend physical activities

Children can improve their high aerobic fitness by engaging in physical activities. Examples include vigorous High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) such as sprints or any low-intensity exercise. Sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming, among others, will also help. "Cardiorespiratory fitness is crucial for good heart and overall health both in childhood and as children become adults," said Raghuveer. "We've got to get kids moving and engaged in regular physical activity, such as in any sports they enjoy," she added. Adults can help children choose activities that they enjoy.

The experts make a case for testing Cardiorespiratory fitness in schools. They add that schools, in turn, can share the results with health care professionals. "Schools could share CRF testing results with health care professionals. This bidirectional communication will result in health care professionals knowing more about their young patients, so interventions and counseling can begin," said Raghuveer. You can find the manuscript here.

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