Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kids are getting weaker

This research is quite disturbing, but not surprising.    Playing on computers is displacing outdoor activity such that even since 1998 the ability to do some pretty basic movements and activities has declined markedly.   Certainly a worry for the future functioning of society.

We are training people to sit indoors at desks and we will reap the consequences in poor health both physical and psychological.

Academics led by Dr Gavin Sandercock, a children's fitness expert at Essex University, studied how strong a group of 315 Essex 10-year-olds in 2008 were compared with 309 children the same age in 1998. They found that:

■ The number of sit-ups 10-year-olds can do declined by 27.1% between 1998 and 2008

■ Arm strength fell by 26% and grip strength by 7%

■ While one in 20 children in 1998 could not hold their own weight when hanging from wall bars, one in 10 could not do so in 2008.

"This is probably due to changes in activity patterns among English 10-year-olds, such as taking part in fewer activities like rope-climbing in PE and tree-climbing for fun," Sandercock said. "Typically, these activities boosted children's strength, making them able to lift and hold their own bodyweight."

The fact that 10% could not do the wall bars test and another 10% refused to try was "really shocking", he added. "That probably shows that climbing and holding their own weight was something they hadn't done before."


Mark said...

If this reflects a general trend then that's worrying as the long term health consequences of poor body composition as relating to insulin sensitivity, poor bone density and according to some research I read a while back even increased rates of cancer in people less physically strong may be dire. If we are doing this to our kids through a fear of potential litigation then that shames us all.

Asclepius said...

Could it really be something as simple as the lack of strength based training in PE and play that is to blame? If so, it means the solution is also VERY simple!

Normally we see the blame centering on IT (as evidenced in the comments). But, comming from a generation that spent large amounts of my childhood bowed before a ZX81, ZX Spectrum and then a whole series of games consoles, I find this explanation lacks credibility. I am always skeptical of people blaming 'computers' given that kids also spend a lot of time reading - but as this is more socially acceptable, it garners less of a knee jerk reaction and so is never implicated in the dcelining health of the nations children.

The article says that BMI has not changed over the decade in question period, which is also interesting - but this does not tell us much about body composition which is the real issue.

HD said...

It's so sad. At my son's end of the year gymnastics ceremony, the owner ran through some similar statistics and it scares me. Even though I keep my kids active, I know they're no where near as active as I was at their age. On that note, I think we'll head out to go climb a tree :)

strength size said...

This is actually pretty sad, something needs to be done to get these kids moving again!

GymyGym said...

Asclepius brings up a good point. Most assuredly the tendency toward sedentary activities such as playing video games on the computer lends itself to the decline in general health of children, but much of it I believe has to do with current diet trends.

Many foods appealing to a childs appetite are high in saturated fats and sugars, this diet along with the lack of natural motion and exercise is a double whammy against their health.

It should be a more comprehensive approach which integrates the need to address all these problems. Many schools in fact are taking up this fight and providing healthier meals for their students.

Chris said...


I agree with some of your argument, but I wouldn't agree with your criticism of saturated fat. Saturated fat is perfectly healthy - it is grains, seed oils and excess fructose that you have to watch out for.

pieter d said...

Although I agree that computer games are not evil, and can even be good, it is just that the time that you spend on a computer game, is time you don't play outside and don't move. A day is only 24 hours...

And let us remember that our own youths are probably not the 'normal' reference points, even if we played and did sports more often. Think of hunter-gatherer childhoods. There is no sitting behind school desks for forager children.

The latter makes these recent findings even more depressing.

Thanks for the blog.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this blog. I've always agreed that the present structure of school's PE course needs to be more rugged. It needs to be real Physical activities. Introduce the children to sports like boxing, and all the training that is associated with it. Took my eldest son to boxing at Biscayne Boxing & Fitness Club
and he really loved it. A PE class should be making our children sweat!!!

Great article.