A recent study that looked into seven national surveys covering the health of Chinese teenagers for two decades has revealed that there has been a significant decrease in fitness among the youth in China despite better nutrition.
The findings, which are derived from surveyed data between 1985 to 2014, found that the Chinese youth has been getting fatter, weaker and lazier over the years.
“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,” Nanjing University of Science and Technology motor development specialist Wang Zongping was quoted as saying.
While the research also discovered that Chinese students have generally grown taller and bigger, they are now more overweight and have poorer eyesight, which researchers believe is mainly due to lack of exercise.
“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.
The lazy lifestyle is continued beyond their adolescent years as they enter college, as more than 84% of college students are found to exercise less than one hour a day. The majority are found to spend most of their time either playing games online or studying.
Researchers noted that in the 1980s, students spent a significant amount of time engaging in physical activities such as athletic and gymnastic activities. Unfortunately, much of the fitness equipment has been removed from campuses due to parents’ complaints in the 1990s.
“If a student gets injured in class, the school is blamed,” PE teacher Shi Fei told China Daily.
With most families having only one child, the parents had the tendency to have their children pampered and over-protected.
Parents would want to ensure that their only child is protected from injuries, but as Wang pointed out, “such are normal during exercise, and are helpful for a person to better understand their own bodies.”
“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.
Earlier this year, a study published by the Lancet Medical Journal stated that China has already replaced the U.S. as the country with the greatest number of obese people in the world, rising from its number-two ranking in 2014. According to the report, the country is home to 43,200,000 obese men and 46,400,000 obese women, which accounts for 16.3% and 12.4%, respectively, of the global obese population.
The government’s “Healthy China 2030” program seeks to address this. Launched in October, the plan is to put in place better sports facilities in schools to promote healthier kids, increasing the total “exercise space” to at least 2.3 square meters per capita by 2030. Currently, the country’s facilities are only 1.5 square meters per capita.
If implemented as planned, more gymnasiums, school fields and tracks will be built across the country. All students will also be required to complete at least one hour of strenuous physical activity three times a week.
“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.”