Youngsters in Norway today are not as fit as earlier generations, and even the best perform less well. Researchers now warn that a wave of inactivity could have a major long-term health impact.
The conclusions about the physical condition of young people build on a survey of Norwegian schoolchildren's performance in the 3 000-metre race from 1969 to 2009.
Associate professors Leif Inge Tjelta and Sindre Dyrstad at the University of Stavanger (UiS) have drawn on notes kept by a number of physical education teachers.
Their work has confirmed a modern prejudice that today's Norwegian children run more slowly than people of their age did in the past.
Based on roughly 5 000 trials covering pupils in Stavanger, the results of the study are depressing and worse than the researchers had feared.
They show that physical endurance levels among schoolchildren remained stable until the end of the 1980s, but have worsened dramatically since 1990.
The main findings show that boys running the 3 000-metre now take one minute and 20 seconds longer on average than earlier generations.
Girls, on the other hand, require an extra minute to complete the race, giving gender-specific increases of 10 and six per cent respectively.
Published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, the study shows that the most depressing results are among schoolchildren with the weakest performance.
"Results for this group are far worse than before," comments Prof Tjelta. "These children are exposing themselves to a great health risk.
"There's a potential danger that their low level of activity will have long-term consequences for their physical condition unless they do something about it.
"But the best 10 per cent are also in worse shape than before. That even extends to schoolchildren who're pursuing sports at a high level in their
|Contact: Leif Inge Tjelta|
University of Stavanger