Climate change causes poorer fitness in children: study

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Global warming — fueled by climate change — is making children less physically fit and heavier than ever before, a new study finds.

And it’s a two-way street: Physical fitness is also key to tolerating higher temperatures.

A less active lifestyle caused by higher temperatures puts children at greater risk for heat-related health problems, including dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, according to the study, published in the journal Temperature on Friday.

“As the world warms, kids are the least fit they’ve ever been,” author Shawnda Morrison, an exercise physiologist near the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, said in a statement.

“It is imperative that children are encouraged to exercise on a daily basis to build and maintain their fitness so that they enjoy moving their bodies and do not feel it as ‘work’ or ‘a chore’ “, she says. added.

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Current climate change policies are not meeting the health needs of children, Morrison argued, highlighting the crucial nature of encouraging children to make exercise an everyday part of their lives.

Morrison drew her conclusions by combining more than 150 scientific studies on how children continue to exercise and cope with heat, and how the situation could change as global temperatures rise.

One of her key findings was that children’s aerobic fitness is 30 percent lower than that of their parents at the same age. Meanwhile, most children don’t meet the World Health Organization guidelines to get about an hour of physical activity every day.

Physical inactivity increased, especially in Europe, during the coronavirus pandemic, when schools and other institutions were closed, according to the survey.

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Morrison highlighted previous research showing that emergency departments of children’s hospitals in the US showed higher attendance on warmer days. Younger children in particular often needed care.

She also examined the findings of a study of 457 primary schools in Thailand, which found that overweight students were more than twice as likely to have problems regulating body temperature as those of normal weight when they exercised outdoors.

As temperatures rise around the world, Morrison warned parents may increasingly decide it’s “too hot to play outside.”

According to the study, this could, in turn, mean that unfit children may have more difficulty meeting the minimum levels of physical activity needed to stay healthy.

With changes in weather patterns expected to trigger outbreaks of new diseases in the human population, exercise restrictions aimed at containing such diseases could also hurt children’s fitness, the study found.

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Morrison identified physical education classes as the most cost-effective way to equip children with the tools they need to exercise throughout their lives. According to the study, families can also play a key role in encouraging such activities.

“Do what you love to do, whether it’s a family bike ride or rollerblading, a walk in the woods or walking the dog,” Morrison said.

“Don’t try to avoid the heat completely, but choose times of the day that are less hot (mornings/evenings) to stay active as we need to keep ourselves moving in this new warming world,” she added.

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