Poverty is linked to bad health outcomes, of which one is aerobic fitness, summarizes the study that ranks Tanzanian children fittest in the world.
The international study was done by Justin Lang, a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa and co-authored by Professor Tim Olds from the University of South Australia among others.
The study lists Tanzanian, Icelandic, Estonian, Norwegian and Japanese children as the fittest in the world. Mexican, Peruvian, Latvian, and American kids ranked the least fittest.
The researchers analyzed data of above 1.1 million children between the ages of 9 and 17 from 50 countries.
The data was gathered over two decades and measured with a standardized running-fitness test, known as the beep test. The kids ran 20 meter shuttles back and forth as a way to measure their maximum aerobic power.
The study argues that aerobic capacity or fitness is a clear indicator of future cardiovascular and metabolic health.
”Kids who are aerobically fit tend to be healthy; and healthy kids are apt to be healthy adults.”
While Professor Olds added:
“Cardio-respiratory fitness is an excellent indicator of good health and there’s evidence showing that kids with high fitness levels are healthier and tend to live longer.”
The study also found out that when socioeconomic indicators improved in developing countries, fitness levels dropped.
The higher the development in developing countries – measured with the human development index – the worse its kids performed. This was a clear indication that when a society did not have to perform high to survive, the people use less energy.
According to Lang, the people of these developing countries growing rapidly do not have the infrastructures in place to cope with the burden of not having to maintain physical fitness. This directly correlates with chronic diseases and adds to ”prevalent infectious diseases in these parts of the world.”
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Africa was pointed out in the study as having the world’s second fastest rate of urbanization after Asia. The middle class, which is increasingly expanding, may be vulnerable.
The full research is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.