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American Youth Need Help to Boost Cardiovascular Fitness

American Heart Association wants to see new testing.

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Training youth

Are you training young teens? If not, it might be a good service to add, as nearly 60% of American youth ages 12–15 lack cardiorespiratory fitness, according to a recent scientific statement from the AHA. Girls tend to be less fit than boys.

These findings have implications in both childhood and adulthood. During youth, healthy cardiovascular fitness levels are linked with better cognitive function, higher self-worth and better life satisfaction. In later life, higher fitness levels reduce chronic risks for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Study authors want to see annual cardiorespiratory fitness testing included in routine physical checkups, to identify youth who may benefit from becoming more active. The researchers also want school policies and public health measures to support lifestyle improvements that increase physical activity. “Requiring physical activity for every grade level through high school would be a step in the right direction,” said study author Geetha Raghuveer, MD, MPH, FAHA, cardiologist and professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. For a copy of the statement, see the American Heart Association journal Circulation (2020; doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000866).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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