Look, if I had to slay an elk, or even stone-grind the corn for dinner, my family's stomachs would be rumbling. So it's pretty clear -- and understandable -- that as life gets easier, our muscles get weaker.
But lately the declines have been fast and flabbulous. A British study comparing 300 10-year-old boys and girls in 2014 to their counterparts back in 1998 found a "20% decrease in muscle strength and a 30% decrease in muscle endurance in 10-year-olds over the 16-year period," according to The Guardian.
That's steep! One of the tests involved sit-ups:
...while boys were able to achieve just over 26 sit-ups on average in 30 seconds in 1998, the figure fell to 19.2 in 2008 and just 15.4 in 2014. For girls the figure fell from 23.9 to 10.7 between 1998 and 2014.
A significant decline was also seen for both boys and girls for the arm-hang test...
[Researcher Gavin] Sandercock...added that the steep declines in the sit-up and arm-hang measurements might be, at least in part, down to children being less tolerant of discomfort.
Most likely one of the culprits is the evaporation of free play. When kids are playing on their own, they are motivated to keep going for as long as possible, since it's so fun. Hello, endurance! And if you're playing and having a great time and you fall, you get back up as fast as you can so you can play some more, learning to ignore minor discomfort in pursuit of major joy.
Of course, social media is also partly to blame, as it doesn't take oodles of endurance to sit in front of a screen (I should know -- here I slouch!). But a study oft-quoted by Dr. Peter Gray found that, given the choice, kids would rather play outside with each other than play on a computer.
Solution? If you read this blog regularly, you know that Let Grow recommends schools start a Let Grow Play Club, staying open till 6 so kids can play on their own (adults on premises, but not intervening), in a place that parents trust. The more that kids play, the stronger they get. (And probably less cranky, too.) - L