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Young men get a little less fit every year

Okay, okay. This research comes from Finland, and it's about young Finnish males who go into the army. But the tendencies that these military researchers report in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise are not limited to Finland alone. Fitness levels of young men (and women) are in a world wide decline.

The researchers used data related to the health and fitness of the new recruits, collected by the Finnish army since the 1970s. The Finnish government has been wise enough to maintain conscription, and as a result some 25,000 young Finnish men are drafted every year.

In the nineties the new recruits became fatter. The fattening continued until 2005 - probably the year in which every Finnish boy had access to the internet. After that, the body weight of the recrutes remained stable.

Young men get a little less fit every year

The distance that the new recruits were able to run in a time frame of 12 minutes has been decreasing since the 1970s. The pace of this decline seems to slow down since the 1990s - but there are no signs of improvement.

Young men get a little less fit every year

"The present study demonstrates that the mean body mass of young men entering Finnish military service has increased significantly since the early 1990s, although this trend has slowed during the last 10 yr", the researchers summarize. "At the same time, aerobic capacity has dramatically declined."

"In addition, the relative number of conscripts with poor aerobic and muscle fitness has still increased, whereby one in four young men have poor fitness levels at the beginning of military service."

"Decreasing physical fitness may be a big challenge for the military readiness of the Finnish Defence Forces. Physical training of conscripts before entering military service may be one possible solution. In addition, from the national health perspective, more initiatives are needed to encourage adolescents to increase their levels of daily physical activity and improve their health awareness."

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Feb;50(2):292-8.

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