Kids Today Run Slower Than Their Parents Did

If today’s kids were to race against their parents when they were kids, it wouldn’t even be a fair contest. In a mile-long run, contemporary children would finish a full minute and a half later than their parents did at their age in the 1980s. It’s a sad visual that exemplifies just how unhealthy our lifestyles have become.

An Australian research team examined cardiovascular data on 25 million children around the world dating back to the 1970s. While a handful of countries like Japan haven’t shown much change in their populations’ collective health, most nations have declined drastically.

When quantified, experts conclude that kids all over the globe are now 15% less fit than their parents. The change applies to both boys and girls, young kids and teenagers. In the United States specifically, children’s running endurance dropped by about 6% each decade since the 1970s. The average of other nations’ cardiovascular decline was 5% per decade, indicating that American kids were become unhealthier faster. (At least that’s one race they could win!)

The researchers chose to pay special attention to running times because they are one of the best indicators of lifelong health. “Young people can be fit in different ways,” said lead researcher Grant Tomkinson. “They can be strong like a weightlifter, or flexible like a gymnast, or skillful like a tennis player. But not all of these types of fitness relate well to health. The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time, like running multiple laps around the oval track.”

Why are kids slower today? Perhaps most obviously, they’re fatter. Children have much higher fat masses than their parents. The research team attributes 30-60% of the changes in endurance running times to the increase in obesity rates.

Another contributing factor is a lack of fitness and practice. Although kids are supposed to get at least one hour of exercise each day, according to the World Health Organization, 80% of kids around the world aren’t getting sufficient physical activity in their lives. In the United States, just one-third of American children actually exercise the recommended amount at this point.

Though a lot of people assume that kids would at least be getting exercise during gym class, the truth is that many U.S. schools have cut physical education from their curriculums. Without the occasional rigorous movement, how can we expect kids to counteract the impact of their increasingly unhealthy diets?

The slowing down of the world’s kids is a problem that not even performance enhancing drugs can fix. In order to avoid our kids “running” pitiful 16-minute miles, we’ll need to recommit ourselves to promoting fitness in an honest fashion.


Myriam G.
Myriam G4 years ago

I was an African dance teacher back in 2002, and I was always surprised how I could run for longer periods than the kids I taught to. We would always do a few laps of slow jog around the danceroom (it was huge) to warm up, and after less than a minute, lots of kids had stop running and most of the rest was complaining. I was trying to think back at my own asthmatic childhood, and I'm pretty sure I could have run longer than that, even with the asthma. Then again, as a child, I would spend most of the day outside... playing, running, biking...

I don't mean to blame today's parents. I'm a mom myself, and my kids don't always get their 1 hour of outside playtime. I try to play and exercise with them as much as I can, but I now think that the best thing to do is just to keep exercising myself. I hope they'll remember that their mom liked to take care of her fitness, and lived a healthy and happy life. Maybe they'll emulate and keep on exercising as they age, too.

june t.
june t4 years ago

they can't run as fast, but they can text and twerk quicker...

Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K4 years ago

All this new technology is great and important, expanding one's horizons and mind. But it's also great and important to take care of the body and getting fresh air. It's another way of expanding one's horizons and mind. Thanks.

kim P.
kim P4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Aud Nordby
Aud n4 years ago


Rita delfing
Rita Odessa4 years ago

I took my niece to the gym, because now they allow for people to get their PE classes away from the school gym. This might work if the person is very involved with sports after school but for my niece who did dance (a good exercise) it was a once a week thing. So she had to find other things to do as well.
I love the kid but I realized, I was in very good shape at 45 and how she was not at 17. She did reasonable due to her young age, however If she had been my age and I was teaching how to use gym equipment and do cardio she would not have been able to complete the 30 minutes.
I still talk to her about getting some cardio exercise, I don't care if she runs, skips, bikes or does machines at the gym although muscle weight is very important as you age, you must keep your heart strong! I know I am outside the norm, I like to exercise and I very much like to run, trained myself in my 20's to distance run, it can be done.
Society and people are very unhealthy people really need to look at their life and health if they want have a chance at aging in a healthy manner not pumped up on pharmaceuticals. (I have a thyroid issue being treated, as well one lazy kidney that also requires treatment) I figure if it wasn't for the importance I put on my health my situation would be far worse. The mindset must change.

David W.
David W4 years ago


Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

My middle school PE teacher was an idiot who insisted I could perform a calisthenic that was impossible for me due to lack of coordination (squat thrusts). I attempted it for about 2 weeks with no progress in muscle memory or coordination. Every time I failed his only recourse was to have me run the whole period instead of participating in the normal activity, thinking that would make me do what he wanted. He never broke me.

Yvette S.
Yvette S4 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Dmitry Nikiforov
Dmitry Nikiforov4 years ago

Thank you