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American kids among the least fit in the entire world

American children

(NaturalNews) The American food culture is getting healthier, as the movement to avoid prepackaged, genetically-modified foods is growing. But according to a new study, the U.S. has a long way to go to finally get the upper hand on its battle with bulging waistlines.

The New York Daily News is reporting that American kids ranked 47 out of 50 countries in the measurement of aerobic fitness, which is key to overall health, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In comparison, Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway and Japan were in the top five, the study said, which further identified Mexico as the least fit nation.

The Daily News said that research teams from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the University of North Dakota examined data from more than 1.1 million kids between the ages of 9 and 17. Study subjects were evaluated based on a multi-stage fitness test that was also called a "beep" test for the manner in which it was conducted.

Test subjects were asked to run back and forth between two points that were placed 66 feet apart in time to synchronized beeps. When they got to a point where they could not reach a line before the beep, that was the measure of their fitness level.

'Beep test'

"If all the kids in the world were to line up for a race, the average American child would finish at the [back] of the field," according to Grant Tomkinson, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of North Dakota. He added that Canadian kids fared somewhat better, coming in at about the middle of the pack.

Study authors cited income inequality as a key finding; nations with a big gap between rich and poor tended to have low fitness levels. (This is odd, considering America, at No. 9, is one of the richest nations in the world, with an average $54,630 GDP per capita, but scored near the bottom. Also, higher on that list of the world's richest countries is Norway, at no. 7, with an average GDP per capita of $64,856, and yet Norwegian children are in the top five in fitness. Perhaps this is an outlier but it is worth noting.)

The beep test – also called the "bleep test," among other things – is a standardized assessment of someone's fitness level. It's a very simple, but very powerful test that allows for the measurement of VO2 capacity while serving as a benchmark for fitness requirements in sports, the military, police work or any other job or activity that requires endurance.

The poor level of fitness for U.S. kids is also a bit puzzling considering that America tends to bring home more Olympic gold medals than any other country. But not only are American kids low on the fitness totem pole, but they rank behind much smaller, poorer countries like Iceland, Surname and Chile, Tomkinson said, writing in the Daily Mail.

Aerobic health as a child predictor of future health

The researcher noted that while fitness levels are important for success in sporting events, it's also an important factor in your overall health. And there are different ways a person can be fit. For instance, you can be a strong weightlifter, a fast sprinter, flexible like a gymnast or skillful like a tennis or baseball player.

But not all of those levels of fitness relate to overall health. The most important type of fitness, says Tomkinson, is aerobic fitness – the ability for your body to remain vigorously in motion, as during exercise, for a prolonged period of time, like biking distances or running around an oval track.

Tomkinson says if you're not very fit at the moment, you are much more likely to die from heart disease, diabetes, cancers later in life and other chronic diseases. He says that one study that used data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which followed more than 53,000 men and women, showed that low aerobic fitness is a good indicator of death.

In fact, research shows that a lack of aerobic health is a bigger risk factor than anything else, with the exception of high blood pressure in men, and greater even than the combined deaths resulting from smoking, diabetes and obesity. More recent research shows that fitness levels as a child are very strongly linked to future health.






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