Why kids can't jump

Aussie kids’ health and fitness in decline.

Australian children's fitness levels have declined significantly over the last 30 years, according to research from the University of Tasmania.

Researchers from the university’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research revealed children aged 11-12 could jump an average 16cm less than their counterparts in 1985.

Lead researcher Dr Brooklyn Fraser said the reduction in jump length represented a considerable decrease in muscular fitness. 

“Jumping an average of 16cm less represents an 11 percent decrease in muscular fitness levels,” Dr Fraser said.

“The finding suggests that there’s been a decline in the muscular fitness levels of Australian children over the past 30 years.”

Dr Fraser said muscular fitness was an indicator of overall health.

“Muscular fitness represents muscular strength, endurance and power,” she said.

“So greater levels of muscular fitness are associated with a range of positive health outcomes including a healthy weight, lower cardiovascular risk factors, better self esteem and better bone health.”

Children’s lower fitness levels could have an impact on their future health.

“Links have been made with low muscular fitness in childhood and a future risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adulthood,” Dr Fraser said.

“The decline in the muscular fitness levels of children could mean that our children are at an increased risk of developing adverse health outcomes later in life.”

Dr Fraser said the decrease in muscular fitness could be attributed to lifestyle choices.

“We know that children have become bigger and heavier over time and we accounted for any increase in body fat over the 30-year period and found the decline remained,” she said.

“It could be that increased screen time and just being less active are contributing factors.

“The next step is to understand what has caused the decline and identify strategies to reverse it.”

Dr Fraser said parents could help improve their children’s muscular fitness through play and physical activity.

“Australian guidelines recommend that children should be engaging in physical activity and creating muscle strength at least three days per week,” she said.

“Just getting kids out there doing things like the monkey bars to improve grip strength, and hopscotch to get those fundamental motor skills, can help.

“It’s just about getting kids active again, and that’s going to have some lasting effects on their muscular fitness and their enjoyment of the activities.

“We just really want to get our children to be as healthy and fit as possible heading into adulthood.”

5 ways to get your kids active*

  1. Create an obstacle course.
  2. Learn a skipping rope routine.
  3. Living room dance party.
  4. Teach your kids the games you played as a child.
  5. Visit new playgrounds, including skate parks and BMX tracks.
    *Source: Queensland Health