Children are Not Engaging in Physical Activity

We’ve known for some time that children, not just in England but, across Europe are growing taller and heavier without a change in BMI. This suggests there has been little to no change in adiposity but over the same time period there has been a reduction in aerobic fitness suggesting something about the conclusions drawn may be incorrect.

Sandercock & Cohen have published a new article in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, which aimed to get to gain new answers about the state of childhood fitness levels. The aim of their study was to provide updates describing the trend in muscular fitness of English children, over the past 20 years. This may seem as a simple update but what is important is that this study included a determination if there are independent changes in fitness to children’s height and weight.

The authors found that, once you factor in the consideration that tests used prefer taller slimmer children, there has been a reduction in standing jump, bent-arm hang, press-ups and grip strength suggest that children have less muscle mass than was previously seen during this longitudinal study.  Because the findings are independent of changes in body size it suggests they are due to changes in physical activity habits rather than adiposity alone.

Practical Applications

  • Routine measurement of the components of muscular fitness are a valuable additional to health assessment in children,
  • Remember to account for increase in body size when assessing strength. Some exercises / tests bias height +/- weight in scoring.