kids basketball

Think your kid is healthier than you were at that age? She might not be, says new research, especially when it comes to cardiovascular health.

According to the research, which was presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, today’s kids can’t run as far or as fast as their parents did when they were the same age. They’re about 15 percent less fit than their parents were.

“Young people can be fit in different ways. They can be strong like a weightlifter, or flexible like a gymnast, or skillful like a tennis player. But not all of these types of fitness relate well to health,” study researcher Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences, said in a statement. “The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time, like running multiple laps around an oval track.”

Tomkinson and his team looked at data from 25 million children ages 9 to 17 in 50 studies conducted between 1964 and 2010. The studies focused on cardiovascular health and endurance. “Over that 46-year period, researchers found that cardiovascular endurance decreased, with some countries experiencing greater decreases than others,” reports the Huffington Post. “In the United States, in particular, it fell 6 percent per decade, on average, from 1970 to 2000—greater than the decline in endurance of 5 percent per decade for all 28 countries included in the study.”

And the researchers noted that today’s children, on average, run slower than their same-age counterparts 30 years ago. Running a mile takes them longer today—a minute and a half longer.

Factors including obesity and diet-related illnesses can impact cardiovascular health. Today, the percentage of children aged 6–11 years who are obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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