US KIDS RANKED 47TH OUT OF 50 COUNTRIES IN FITNESS
"It Is Pretty Obvious We Have To Go Where Physical Activity Is Born"
SILVER SPRING, MD – October 26, 2016 – U.S. children are in terrible shape. According to a recent report, U.S. children rank 47th in the world in overall physical fitness, based on a series of 20-meter shuttle runs (aka, The Beep Test) conducted with more than 1.1 million children from 50 countries. Yes, U.S. kids barely crack the top 50 in global fitness.
The top five countries with the fittest children are Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway and Japan. Canadian children ranked 19th and Mexican children were 50th. This new information only confirms the reality of the current ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ now impacting the U.S. where nearly 82 million Americans are physically inactive – many of whom are children – according to PHIT America and the Physical Activity Council.
The results of a recent study conducted at the University of North Dakota and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (Canada) reveal that U.S. children are woefully out of shape when compared to children from other countries. The study was reported in a recent edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In this study, the best performers in the 20-meter shuttle run lived in Africa and central/northern Europe. Many of the lowest performing fitness results came from children in South America.
“If all the kids in the world were to line up for a race, the average American child would finish at the foot of the field,” says Dr. Grant Tomkinson, senior author, associate professor, University of North Dakota.
“Kids who are aerobically fit tend to be healthy and healthy kids are apt to be healthy adults. So, studying aerobic fitness in the early years is very insightful to overall population health,” says Justin Lang, lead author, Healthy Active Living and Obesity research group, CHEO and PhD student, University of Ottawa.
Those overall survey results are not surprising as statistics released by the Physical Activity Council confirm that U.S. children represent a significant percentage of the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ now impacting the U.S.
In 2015, two-thirds of American children (ages 6-17) were classified as ‘not active to healthy standards,’ which means they were physically active less than three days a week in any activity. Of those 34.9 million children who are not ‘active to healthy standards,’ 21.6 million are 6-12 year olds and 13.3 million are 13-17 year olds.
So, how do we get our kids more active, fit, and healthy?
Follow the lead of PHIT America. Since the fall of 2015, PHIT America has invested funds – called GO! Grants – in U.S. elementary school P.E. programs. In the fall of 2015, PHIT America distributed 156 GO! Grants to schools in 22 states. This year, another 118 GO! Grants were distributed to 118 schools in 29 states. To date, more than 100,000 U.S. elementary age school children are now leading activity filled lives because of the GO! Grants, all of which were raised in the private sector. PHIT America’s goal is to get 10 million American children physically active by 2025 and is talking major foundations and brands who want to help more children throughout the USA.
“It is pretty obvious. We have to go where physical activity is born,” says Jim Baugh, Founder, PHIT America. “There are two places where kids learn how to be active, run, jump, and other physical skills. This happens with the family unit and also ‘where the kids are’ – in schools. Unfortunately, school leaders have stripped physical education and recess out of schools; 48 percent of high schools have no physical education; and the average school budget for an elementary school is only $460 for an entire school. We have to rebuild these P.E. programs to change the health and condition of our children.”
One of the keys to getting U.S. children more physically fit is to increase the commitment to daily P.E. in the school system. The impact of daily P.E. is powerful and transformational.
“When kids have fun exercising at school - - and learn to connect the dots between the exercise and the immediate effect on their mood, energy level, brain power, confidence, and mindset - - they develop a love of exercise that transcends the school yard and are developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime,” says Apryl Krakovsky, Founder, My School in Motion, Inc. (Los Angeles, California). “Physical educators are an integral part of this fitness transformation. Physical educators light the spark for a lifetime of fitness!”
“Giving children a regular dose of P.E. at school will begin a lifelong love affair with physical activity and a physically active lifestyle,” says Ellen Smith, P.E. teacher, Gove Elementary School (Belle Glade, Florida).
There are negative implications for the military due to lackluster fitness levels by U.S. youth. In a 2014 editorial in Mission: Readiness, Major General Errol Gordon Stump, U.S. Air Force (Retired), and Major General William A. Henderson, U.S. Air Force (Retired), stated that 70% of Americans ages 14-17 are unfit to join the military and 1,200 U.S. military recruits are discharged each year due to being unfit. The cost to replace each recruit is roughly $50,000 per replacement which amounts to $60 million each year.
Stump and Henderson are not alone in their staunch support of higher physical activity standards for students, who are future U.S. military recruits.
"It takes years, not months, to build a strong, healthy body and the foundation for good fitness is laid in childhood and young adulthood,” said Richard E. Hawley, General, U.S. Air Force (Retired) and James M. Loy, Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) in a joint statement on behalf of Mission: Readiness. “But in the midst of today’s obesity crisis, most students still do not participate in adequate levels of physical activity."
“The root of this national trend of physical inactivity among children is a lack of P.E. in schools,” continues Baugh. “As schools dropped physical education more than a decade ago, this started the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ in the U.S.”
Medical experts agree that the status quo is not good news.
“This issue of physical inactivity is also the ‘time bomb’ for the healthcare crisis in the U.S. as these inactive children are much more prone to disease,” says Dr. Jordan Metzl, Sports Medicine Doctor, New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery (New York, New York).
“For children, the foundation of an activity filled lifestyle starts with daily physical education in our schools,” says Dr. Tim Church, Professor at Pennington Biomedical, Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana).
“Opportunities for children to participate in physical activity are the foundation for prevention, not only for obesity and physical health, but mental health, self-confidence, and a lifetime of enjoying activity,” says Dr. Asheley Cockrell Skinner, Assistant Professor, Duke University, The Duke Clinical Research Institute (Durham, North Carolina).
Drs. Metzl, Church, and Skinner are all members of Doctors for PHIT America, who all agree that physical activity is the best prescription for total health. They are also committed to PHIT America’s mission to create a Movement for Fit & Healthy America.