Children Not As Caught Up In Fitness Craze, Health Official Says
CHICAGO (AP) _ America’s adults may be getting physical but ″kids are definitely less fit today″ than they were in the 1960s, says an official of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
″The fathers are jogging, running up and down the streets at night. But the boy is sitting home watching television,″ Dr. Paul Dyment, chairman of the AAP’s Committee on Sports Medicine, said Tuesday.
As many as one-third of all children over age 12 have elevated levels of blood cholesterol, which are associated with a higher risk of heart attack, the academy said. Also, a three-year National Children and Youth Fitness Study from the U.S. Public Health Service released earlier this year found that 8,800 boys and girls studied were significantly fatter than those studied in the 1960s.
″The evidence is, ‘Yes, kids are definitely less fit today,’ ″ Dyment said.
Numerous studies indicate U.S. youngsters’ performances on various physical-endurance tests have declined over the past decade, he said, despite creation of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports more than a quarter century ago.
″Only 10 percent of our children can qualify for the Presidential Fitness Award; and in at least one state, the figure dips to 2 percent,″ said Dyment, referring to an award given youngsters who perform at high levels on a variety of physical tests. The low-ranking state is Oklahoma, he said.
″The worry right now is that with tighter money for education, physical education programs probably will be the first to go,″ said Dyment, chairman of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
When asked about the superiority at all age levels of today’s athletic performances over those in past years, Dyment said such performances are produced by only a few. ″The elite athlete is getting better and better,″ he said, crediting new knowledge about training and physiology and countless hours spent practicing. ″A few people are getting better and better. But most people are getting worse and worse.″
The academy said in a news release that it has sent a self-appraisal checklist for health supervision in school athletic programs to 24,000 althletic directors in the United States.
It said its committee on sports medicine is also planning to publish a policy statement later this year on physical fitness in schools, with recommendations on what should constitute a well-conceived school athletic program and how it should be conducted to promote and improve the fitness levels of children.
Classic American sports such as baseball are not the ones that promote best overall fitness, since, in the case of baseball, only one player is moving at a time, and then only intermittently, said Dyment.
″Tennis and soccer are two of the best all-around lifelong fitness sports,″ he said. Next are swimming and running, he said.
Whatever the sport, it should be performed four times per week and continue without breaks for at least 30 minutes.