Physical Fitness in American Youth

Factoid Answer

What proportion of American kids 12 to 15 years of age meet minimum standards for physical fitness, based on their ability to walk and run?

  • 42%

Over the past decade, rates of obesity have been pretty stable for American kids 6 to 18 years of age. But over the same decade, the fitness of American kids has declined significantly, even though the average kid hasn’t gotten any fatter. In 2014, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the result of a study which compared the physical fitness of 12- to 15-year-olds in 2012 with 12- to 15-year-olds back in 1999 and 2000. They found that the average fitness of both girls and boys declined significantly over that time span. The proportion of kids who met the minimum standard for physical fitness, based on how much they were able to exercise, decreased from 52.4% in 1999/2000 to 42.2% in 2012. And this decrease in fitness occurred despite the fact that the kids in 2012 were not significantly fatter than the kids in 1999 – 2000. The kids in 2012 were just less capable of exercise. See Jaime Gahche and colleagues, NCHS Data Brief 153, May 2014,Cardiorespiratory Fitness Levels Among U.S. Youth Aged 12–15 Years: United States, 1999–2004 and 2012” (yes, Dr Gahche’s last name really is spelled Gahche.) See also Gretchen Reynolds’ article “This is our youth”, New York Times,, July 9 2014.

For more about why this happened and what you can do about it, in your own home, please see chapter 4 of my book The Collapse of Parenting: Why most kids today would be better off raised outside the United States // What you need to know, and the three things you must do, if you’re staying here (Basic Books, 2015).


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