Kids’ physical fitness should focus on endurance and skill improvement

December 9, 2020

A child’s cardiorespiratory endurance – a measure of how well the body handles long periods of exercise – is a more important aspect of physical education (PE) than losing weight. A study by researchers at the University of Georgia, US, and the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, highlights how children who are more active during PE, despite their weight, are more likely to stay active after school as well.

“It’s not really your weight that matters. Children can be a little bit overweight but still be relatively fit,” said Associate professor Sami Yli-Piipari, UGA’s Mary Frances Early College of Education.”Research has shown that even in young children, people who are fitter in terms of cardiorespiratory endurance participate in more intense physical activities, even out of PE.”

The study followed 450 children in Finland who took 90 minutes of mandatory PE every week. After a week of tracking their physical activity using an accelerometer, simple tests were conducted to determine mastery of physical skills. The researchers also explored whether the children enjoyed PE or participated out of obligation.

(In Finland, children have more PE on average than their American counterparts; PE classes also teach them how to incorporate exercise into everyday life.)

The researchers found that boys tended to be more active than girls, but surprisingly, muscle strength and motor skills, motivation, nor enjoyment of PE classes, played a role in their physical activity levels.

Children who didn’t participate in after-school sports were also typically less active during their downtime. It was clear that PE was the only time the children exercised hard enough to work up a sweat, which makes it even more important to use class time effectively to get them moving and motivated to keep it up.

Yli-Piipari said variety is key to helping children be more active: introduce children to multiple ways they can get their heart pumping and explain why it’s important to stay active. Model lifestyle and behaviours of a physically active adult may also help children understand the positive physical and mental health effects of exercise.

Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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