As schools reopen, will this be the least fit generation of schoolchildren ever?

As schools reopen, will this be the least fit generation of schoolchildren ever?

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In their latest article for The Conversation, Dr. John J Reilly, Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health Science, University of Strathclyde, and Dr. Mark Tremblay, Professor of Pediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, discuss the negative effects COVID-19 related restrictions have had on children’s cardiorespiratory fitness.

Cardiorespiratory fitness, the authors explain, is a measure of the ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to deliver oxygen to the cells of the body, and can be measured in a number of ways, such as a step test and the well-loathed beep test. This measure is a strong indicator of children’s current and future health, and is related to children’s academic success. The primary method for improving cardiorespiratory fitness is physical activity.

Children’s cardiorespiratory fitness has declined over the last few decades, and Dr. Reilly and Tremblay are concerned that the pandemic has exacerbated this decline. According to a recent survey conducted by Dr. Tremblay in collaboration with ParticipACTION, during the pandemic children have reduced their time outdoors, in active outdoor play, and in time spent being physically active, all of which may lead to further declines in cardiorespiratory fitness.

So what can be done to counteract this trend and improve the health of children? Monitoring fitness is an important first step; after a national fitness monitoring programme in Slovenia showed that children’s fitness was declining, the country launched a healthy lifestyle programme and now 80% of schoolchildren have adequate fitness.

As the authors conclude: ‘Low and declining physical fitness is a less visible crisis but one with serious long-term consequences. We could start addressing it by monitoring fitness as schools reopen.’

Read the full article here.

The Conversation