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Failing at Fitness: U.S. youth rank 47th out of 50 countries, study says

Failing at Fitness: U.S. youth rank 47th out of 50 countries, study says

9/23/2016

An international research team co-led from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the University of North Dakota studied the aerobic fitness levels of children and youth across 50 countries.

And the U.S. ranked a dismal 47th.  

The top five countries were Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway and Japan. Canada was 19th and Mexico was last.

"Kids who are aerobically fit tend to be healthy; and healthy kids are apt to be healthy adults,” said Justin Lang, lead author. “So studying aerobic fitness in the early years is very insightful to overall population health. It's important to know how kids in Canada or America fare on the world stage, for example, because we can always learn from other countries with fitter kids."

The study involved analyzing 20-meter shuttle data, also called the beep test, from 1.1 million kids aged 9 to 17 years old from 50 countries. The beep test is the most popular field-based test of aerobic fitness levels of children and youth. It is also standardized and commonly used around the world.

"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," said Dr. Grant Tomkinson, senior author, associate professor, University of North Dakota. "Canada, on the other hand, fared moderately well placing just above middle of the pack. This study is the largest of its kind so it's exciting to have this evidence at hand."

Another key finding of this study is that income inequality -- the gap between rich and poor as measured by the Gini Index -- is strongly correlated with aerobic fitness. Children and youth from countries with a small gap between rich and poor appear to have better fitness.

Study collaborators include co-authors from the University of Montreal and University of South Australia.

Study Fitness Exercise Aerobic

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