As temperatures rise worldwide, children are exercising less. On average, they are 30% less active than their parents when they were young. This will negatively affect their heat tolerance, new research shows.
dThe world is heating up and through the media we hear and read lots of tips and advice that teach us how to keep a cool head in this heat.
Less heard, but according to researcher Shawnda Morrison from the University of Ljubljana, an important condition for better handling the heat is to be physically fit. In her research, she explains that the outlook is not very bright because she finds that our children are more obese and less fit than ever before.
“This can increase the risk of them becoming more vulnerable to heat-related problems such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” she explains.
Too hot to move
Morrison believes that current policies do not adequately address the health needs of children and that encouraging children to make physical activity part of their daily lives should be a priority if they are to live and function well in a world of climate change.
According to her research, published in the journal temperature, On average, children today do 30% less exercise than their parents did when they were young. Children walk or cycle to school less often, play outside less and play less sport.
This is often because it is too hot, so children stay indoors and are more inactive. Most children do not meet the World Health Organization guidelines, which state that a child should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.
Europe in particular is lagging behind, according to the study, and since the Covid-19 pandemic, the inactivity of many children has increased even more.
Morrison has over 20 years of experience researching sports performance and exercise physiology, particularly in hot environments. The findings of her latest research are based on a comprehensive review of more than 150 medical and scientific studies on how children stay physically active, exercise and manage heat, and how all of this may change as temperatures continue to rise worldwide.
“As the world continues to warm, it is imperative that children are encouraged to exercise daily to build and maintain their fitness.”
She concludes that faster adults tolerate the higher temperatures better, due to a combination of physiological, behavioral and psychological factors. “However, as the world continues to warm, children are the healthiest they have ever been. It is imperative that children are encouraged to exercise daily to build and maintain their fitness. It is important that they enjoy moving their body and that it doesn’t feel like a chore to them.’
To move for life
According to the researcher, sports by gym teachers is the best and most cost-effective way to improve children’s fitness and give them meaning to keep moving for the rest of their lives. But, she says, ‘families also have a role to play, especially if schools offer some gymnastics’.
‘Do what you like to do, whether it’s rollerblading or a bike ride with the family, a walk through the woods or a walk with the dog. Make sure the activity increases your heart rate, but also your enthusiasm and positive energy.’
“It is also important not to want to avoid the heat completely, but to choose times of the day that are less hot, such as morning or evening, for example. After all, we have to keep moving in this new, warming world.’