Kids Today Take 90 Seconds Longer to Run a Mile Than Kids in the 1980s

"Remember when human bodies could 'run'?" -Person of the Future

At an international meeting held by the American Heart Association yesterday, Dr. Grant Tomkinson presented research that said cardiovascular endurance in children is declining by 5 percent every decade.

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(Billingham/Flickr)

Tomkinson and his colleagues at the University of South Australia looked at data from 1964 through 2010, from more than 25 million kids in 28 countries.

Timed mile runs over the years, they found, are about a minute and a half slower than they were 30 years ago. “About 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass,” Tomkinson said, frankly.

Now you know why you had to run a timed mile in gym class: so you can lord it over future generations in international fitness wars. An unaffected sense of superiority can be more delicious than any food.

Unfit youth stumble into untoward health problems as adults, which really is tragic. Minors can't consent to sedentary lifestyles. Strive for equality of health-opportunity; exercise the children. What are you going to do with your extra 90 seconds?

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James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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