Ado­les­cents in China are get­ting taller, but weaker

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By XINHUA

Bei­jing’s Olympic For­est Park is busiest after sun­set, when adults go for an af­ter­dinner stroll or a run.

Chil­dren are there too, but sel­dom do teenagers show up. Teens are gen­er­ally at home, work­ing on math or English gram­mar. But while they are get­ting higher scores, they are also get­ting fat, weak and lazy.

Seven na­tional sur­veys on the health of China’s ado­les­cents from 1985 to 2014 show a de­cline in fit­ness, de­spite bet­ter nutri­tion.

“In 1989, male stu­dents would ‘fail’ phys­i­cal ex­ams if they took more than three min­utes and 55 sec­onds to run 1,000 me­ters. That stan­dard was low­ered to four min­utes and 32 sec­onds in 2014,” said Wang Zong­ping, a mo­tor de­vel­op­ment spe­cial­ist at Nan­jing Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2014 sur­vey, Chi­nese stu­dents are taller and big­ger, but they are also fat­ter and have worse eye­sight. Lack of ex­er­cise is seen as the main cul­prit.

“Our sur­vey found that more than half of male stu­dents with ju­nior mid­dle school ed­u­ca­tion and above can’t com­plete a sin­gle pullup,” Wang said.

Even when they en­ter col­lege, they main­tain their couch potato life­style. More than 84 per­cent of col­lege stu­dents ex­er­cise less than one hour ev­ery day, with 27 per­cent re­luc­tant to go for a run. In­stead, they spent most their time do­ing home­work and play­ing games on­line.

Back in the 1980s, stu­dents en­joyed a va­ri­ety of ath­letic and gymnastic ac­tiv­i­ties, but much of the equip­ment was re­moved from cam­puses in the 1990s due to parental com­plaints.

“If a stu­dent gets in­jured in class, the school is blamed,” said Shi Fei, a PE teacher.

With only one child in most fam­i­lies, they are pam­pered and over-pro­tected.

In­juries are nor­mal dur­ing ex­er­cise, and are help­ful for a per­son to bet­ter un­der­stand their own bod­ies, Wang said.

“We care too much about de­vel­op­ing chil­dren’s IQ , and too lit­tle about their mo­tor skills, team spirit and re­silience. These ‘in­vis­i­ble’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties can only be ob­tained through out­door ac­tiv­i­ties,” Wang said.

Govern­ment sup­port

Ac­cord­ing to the Healthy China 2030 plan is­sued in Oc­to­ber, health­ier kids re­quire bet­ter sports fa­cil­i­ties.

To­tal “ex­er­cise space” will be in­creased to at least 2.3 square me­ters per capita by 2030, in con­trast to only 1.5 square me­ters to­day. That means more run­ning and cy­cling tracks, more gym­na­si­ums and more school fields. The plan also calls for at least one hour of stren­u­ous phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity three times a week for all stu­dents.

“Healthy China should be­gin with Sport­ing China,” Wang said. “Schools should en­cour­age stu­dents to step out of the class­room and onto the play­ing field. We should re­store the health and hap­pi­ness of our young peo­ple.”

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