American Children Are Among the World’s Least Fit

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 fifty countries. The findings are disappointing for the US, to say the least.


The study involved analyzing 20-meter shuttle run data, also called the beep test, from 1.1 million kids aged 9 to 17 years old from fifty 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.


American children, it turns out, are among the least fit in the world.


One can’t help but think that, despite the increasing quantity and quality of health and fitness related information available to parents and to younger generations, the simple fact is that American kids don’t move enough, don’t get out enough, and eat poorly.


Then again, maybe it’s the fault of the 1%.


The study also found 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.



American youth bring up the rear in international fitness standards. [Image: CHEO Research Institute]


Also according to the study:


  • Top 5 fittest countries: Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway, Japan
  • Canada placed 19 out of 50
  • America placed 47 out of 50
  • The least fit is Mexico


The study's results are available now in the esteemed British Journal of Sports Medicine.


Wondering how to train youth?

A Lesson Plan for the Youth Athlete


Headline credit: Pixabay.

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