A new study undertaken by the scientists at the University of South Australia (UniSA) shows that Tanzanian children are the fittest in the world.
The BBC reports that the researchers measured the fitness levels of 1.1 million children between 9 and 17 years from 50 different countries. With the researchers making sure that the data was inclusive of all regions and parts of the world. Participating children were made to do a “shuttle run,” where kids are made to run 20m back and forth at an increasingly faster rate until they cannot go any further.
The study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine using data gathered over a 20-year period, showed that children from Tanzania came first while children from Iceland, Estonia, Norway, and Japan completed the top five. Children from the United States, Mexico, Peru, Latvia, and Korea were ranked among the least fit.
The researchers say there appears to be some kind of correlation between a country’s socio-economic markers, such as its gross domestic product (GDP) or human development index (HDI), and its fitness levels. But there appears to be an even stronger correlation between the levels of income distribution within a country.
Professor Tim Olds, one of the co-authors of the study, said: “What we found was, across all the countries there was an association, not a strong association, but an association nonetheless, between levels of fitness and inequality.
“So the more equal a country was, the higher the level of fitness. That was the first thing we found. And secondly, if you look at developed countries, the richer the country was the higher the level of fitness.”
Another researcher on the report, Grant Tomkinson, added, “One of our key findings was that income inequality — the gap between rich and poor — was strongly linked to cardio-respiratory fitness, with kids from countries with a small gap between rich and poor having better fitness.”
In explaining Tanzania’s impressive ranking, Tomkinson said that Tanzania’s position probably had more to with the children’s level of basic physical fitness than any socio-economic factors, “You probably find that they’re obliged to be physically active so that’s why they’re at the top.”
And Professor Olds reiterated the importance of a healthful lifestyle that incorporates physical activity, “Cardio-respiratory fitness is an excellent indicator of good health and there’s evidence showing that kids with high fitness levels are healthier and tend to live longer.”
BY MARK BABATUNDE