Aerobic Ability and Capacity Overview
In an Australian fitness study "Tomkinson GR, Leger LA, Olds TS, Cazorla : Secular trends in the performance of children and adolescents (1980-2000)" it states that there has been a decline in aerobic fitness in Australasian children since the early 1960's to the year 2000 which was similar to the global decline.
In the American state of Louisiana , the Report '2012 Louisiana Act 256' took physical fitness data from over 350 schools for children aged 10 to 19. For aerobic fitness the results showed that 56% of children did not meet the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ(tm)) standards. This is extremely unlikely to be an issue in Louisiana, United States and is symptomatic of a worldwide issue.
Aerobic ability in children is partly genetic but it can obviously be improved through training. All children grow at different rates and improve at different rates so do not expect to be able to say x% extra hours training should equate to y% improvement in aerobic capacity. For adults this is reasonably predictable but for children it is not.
Aerobic Capacity (VO2 Max) is the maximum time a person can sustain an aerobic activity efficiently. This is achieved by the heart and lungs sending oxygen to the muscles as they need it during the exercise. Trying to improve a child's (pre pubescent) aerobic capacity is not going to be too fruitful in many cases and mostly the child will get disheartened. The same child after puberty will make considerable gains given the same programme.
The best idea is to give younger children moderate exercise, lots of encouragement and give them the SELF DESIRE to want to improve without being pushed. Enjoyment is key. If they enjoy it, they will want to do it more. Concentrate before puberty on technique, sports specific skills, agility, balance and efficiency. Some strength training and some aerobic training is undoubtedly beneficial but do not push them in to an adult regime which will probably backfire because children's bodies are just not ready for major improvements before adolescence.
Do not intensively train children, especially in hot conditions as their bodies do not dissipate heat like an adult body can. This can be dangerous.
Boys and girls typically have similar aerobic capacity naturally until aged 14 but then boys tend to increase further till aged 18 when they are approximately 15% better off naturally.
Children from successive generations are generally getting less aerobically fit. In order to improve a child's fitness, use the following tips
- Do not push too hard with aerobic fitness training on pre-pubescent children. The gains will be visible, however they will hardly justify the huge amount of extra work and this often results in a child getting completely put off exercise
- Focus instead on enjoyment, balance, co-ordination, flexibility and sports specific skills. Obviously some aerobic exercise is useful but don't go over the top.
- Make sure children get plenty of rest and are fully hydrated. Avoid heavy training if it is hot
- Aerobic Ability and Capacity at a young age is overshadowed by good technique and efficiency in the sport.