An international research team co-led from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the University of North Dakota studied the aerobic fitness levels of children and youth across 50 countries. The results are available now in the esteemed British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The study found that kids from Estonia are among the fittest in the world, right behind Tanzania and Iceland.
The study involved analyzing 20-meter shuttle data, also called the beep test, from 1.1 million kids aged 9 to 17 years old from 50 countries. The beep test is the most popular field-based test of aerobic fitness levels of children and youth. It is also standardized and commonly used around the world.
“If all the kids in the world were to line up for a race, the average American child would finish at the foot of the field,” said Dr. Grant Tomkinson, senior author, associate professor, University of North Dakota. “Canada, on the other hand, fared moderately well placing just above middle of the pack. This study is the largest of its kind so it’s exciting to have this evidence at hand.”
Another key finding of this study is that income inequality – the gap between rich and poor as measured by the Gini Index – is strongly correlated with aerobic fitness. Children and youth from countries with a small gap between rich and poor appear to have better fitness.
Study collaborators include co-authors from the University of Montreal and University of South Australia.
* Top 5 fittest countries: Tanzania, Iceland, Estonia, Norway, Japan
* Canada placed 19 out of 50
* USA placed 47 out of 50
* The least fit is Mexico
Estonian kids among the fittest in the world