Children’s health will be negatively affected by poor fitness as global temperatures rise, new research shows

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Record levels of obesity and physical inactivity among children mean they are destined to bear the brunt of the health effects of rising global temperatures: that’s the stark warning in a comprehensive new review of current studies on the topic. .

Publication of their findings in the peer-reviewed journal TemperatureDr. Shawnda Morrison, an environmental exercise physiologist, argues that while fitness is key to tolerating higher temperatures, children are fatter and less fit than ever.

This could put them at higher risk for heat-related health problems, such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

She says that current policies on climate change do not adequately address the health needs of children and that encouraging children to make exercise part of their daily lives should be prioritized if they are to cope with living in a warmer world. .

From the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, Faculty of Sports, Dr. Morrison is an expert in adaptive and integrative human physiology in extreme environments. He has over 20 years of experience researching sports performance and exercise physiology, especially in hot environments.

Their assessments are based on a comprehensive review of more than 150 medical and scientific studies on how children stay physically active, exercise, cope with heat, and how this might change as global temperatures rise.

The research he highlights includes a study of 457 primary school children ages 5 to 12 in Thailand, which found that overweight children were more than twice as likely to have difficulty regulating their body temperature as those of normal weight when they exercised outdoor.

In another study, data from children’s hospital emergency departments in the US found that attendance was higher on hotter days. Younger children were particularly likely to need emergency care.

Research has also found:

  • The aerobic capacity of children is 30% lower than that of their parents at the same age.
  • There is a rapid decline in physical activity in children around the world, especially in the last 30 years.
  • Most children do not meet the World Health Organization guideline of getting an average of at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • Physical inactivity accelerated, especially in Europe, during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools and other social infrastructure were closed.

Rising temperatures could further restrict physical activity when children’s parents perceive temperatures outside to be ‘too hot to play’, making it more uncomfortable for untrained or unfit children physical activity Meet the minimum levels of physical activity to stay healthy, says Dr. Morrison, who is also the founder of Active Healthy Kids Slovenia.

Higher temperatures and changes in weather patterns are also expected to lead to outbreaks of new diseases entering the human population. If further movement restrictions are put in place to contain new diseases, this will have potentially devastating consequences for the physical, mental and physical health of children.

Dr. Morrison also points out that in terms of thermoregulation (how the body maintains its internal or core temperature), young children are not simply smaller adults. When exposed to heat, children sweat less than adults; they lose heat by increasing blood flow to the skin, a process that may require the heart to work relatively harder.

Despite these differences, most of the research on how the body adapts to higher temperatures has been conducted in adults. What little mechanistic research has been done on children was mostly done 15 to 30 years ago, when children’s fitness levels were much higher than they are today.

Dr Morrison concludes: “Fitter adults are better able to tolerate higher temperatures, due to a combination of physiological, behavioral and psychological factors.

“However, as the world warms, children are in the worst physical condition they have ever been. It is imperative that children are encouraged to engage in daily physical activity to develop and maintain their physical fitness, so that they enjoy moving their bodies and doesn’t It doesn’t feel like ‘work’ or ‘a chore’ to them”.

Activities can be a mix of structured games, such as soccer, basketball, and baseball, and active games with friends and family, preferably outdoors.

Physical education (PE) lessons taught by physical education teachers are the best and most cost-effective way to increase fitness levels and prepare children to continue exercising throughout their lives. Families also have a role to play, especially if schools offer little physical education.

Dr. Morrison says, “Do what you love to do, whether it’s a family bike or rollerblade ride, a walk in the woods, or a walk with the dog.

“Make sure the activity gets everyone’s heart rate, enthusiasm, and positive energy up, and most importantly, try not to avoid the heat entirely, but choose times of the day that are less hot (mornings/evenings) to stay active as we need to keep moving in this new warming world.

As part of Dr. Morrison’s ongoing work, she seeks to determine how physically active children and adults are during heat waves, and how hot, uncomfortable, or thirsty they feel doing these activities.

For the remainder of August, participants from Canada, the US, and Slovenia can register to participate in this ongoing research here:

Boost fitness to support children’s health after lockdown

More information:
Shawnda A. Morrison, Moving in a Warmer World: Keeping Children Fit as a Countermeasure to Climate Change, Temperature (2022). DOI: 10.1080/23328940.2022.2102375

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Citation: Children’s health will be negatively affected by poor fitness as global temperatures rise, new research shows (Aug 5, 2022) Retrieved Aug 5, 2022 from news/2022-08-children-health-negatively-impacted-poorer.html

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