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Annual aerobic fitness tests could help improve children’s health


Annual screenings to measure the aerobic capacity of children and teens can help identify who needs help protecting their overall health in the future, according to a new report.

Research shows that nearly 60% of 12 to 15 year olds in the United States do not have good cardiorespiratory fitness, a measure of the body’s ability to supply muscles with oxygen during physical activity. It is a key marker of overall health.

While weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar may track individual risk factors, measuring cardiorespiratory fitness gives an overall picture of the health of the heart, lungs and blood flow, Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, chair of the editorial board of the American Heart Association’s new scientific statement. It was published Monday in the journal Circulation.

“Every child would benefit from (cardiorespiratory fitness) testing as part of an annual physical exam and this could identify children who would benefit from lifestyle interventions that can help improve health,” said Raghuveer, cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri, both in Kansas City.

Children with poor or unhealthy aerobic capacity are at greater risk of developing premature heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure at a younger age, and they are at increased risk of premature death from heart disease and accidents cerebrovascular disease in adulthood.

The new scientific statement reviewed studies that have linked better aerobic fitness in children with better academic performance, clearer thinking, better mental health, and a higher sense of self-worth and self-worth. satisfaction in life. The level of cardiorespiratory fitness in children has declined in the United States and around the world over the past six decades, according to the report.

“We need to get kids moving and engaging in regular physical activity, like any sport they love,” Raghuveer said. “The best activity is the activity that a child or teen enjoys that lasts longer. The habits they develop when they are young will directly benefit their health in adulthood.

Studies conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic show that children are spending more time using electronic devices, not only for their educational needs, but also for recreation and entertainment. However, the relationship between sedentary time and aerobic capacity in young people is unclear. A recent analysis that combined the results of several studies found that higher inactivity was associated with lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness in children, but not in adolescents.

The scientific statement says the “gold standard” for measuring cardiorespiratory fitness involves special monitoring of breathing at regular intervals while the participant exercises to exhaustion on a treadmill or on a suitable stationary bike called an ergometer. .

But most pediatric health care offices don’t have the facilities or staff to do this on a regular basis. Thus, the authors of the report said that schools could provide a solution.

Schools widely administer fitness tests such as shuttle running, an effective measure of cardiorespiratory fitness. Students are measured by the number of 20-meter laps they complete before the timed beeps get shorter as the test progresses, causing them to run faster. Many schools also measure body mass index, weight, abdominal strength, upper body strength and flexibility through a group of tests called FitnessGram, which is administered in all 50 states.

Currently, this important information about a child’s health “is not easily accessible because it is in silos,” Raghuveer said. Instead, schools could share their aerobic fitness test results with healthcare providers – in the same way those same providers regularly share immunization records with schools.

The report also examined several social, economic and environmental disparities that affect cardiorespiratory fitness in young people.

The statement cites studies that found low-income families tend to have children with lower or unhealthy cardiorespiratory conditions, possibly because they don’t have access to safe places to exercise. , play sports and be physically active. In many communities, physical education is not provided in schools and opportunities for outdoor recreation have been reduced or eliminated.

Additionally, many low-income families live in food deserts, making it difficult to find or purchase healthy foods, which contribute to obesity in youth and adults.

Raghuveer hopes the new report will inspire research to find “valid and less expensive alternative options for traditional cardiopulmonary exercise tests to assess … all children and improved tests (cardiorespiratory fitness) that can be performed in an office. with limited space and without the need for formally trained exercise physiology staff.

“In the meantime,” she said, “requiring physical activity for every grade level up to high school would be a step in the right direction” “

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