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Are physical fitness levels declining in UK children and should we be worried?
  1. D M Harrington1,
  2. L B Sherar2,
  3. G O'Donovan1
  1. 1Diabetes Research Centre, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  2. 2School of Sport, Exercise and Health Science, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deirdre M Harrington, Leicester Diabetes Centre, Leicester General Hospital, Gwendolen Road, Leicester LE5 4PW, UK; dh204{at}

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Peters et al1 report the results of the novel use of a number of datasets from the UK. By pooling data from five UK studies between 1980 and 2008, the authors used an overall sample of 22 843 white European children who had resting pulse rate assessed at around 10 years of age. Although the sample at each time-point varied (from n=12 164 in the 1980 study to as little as n=774 in 1984/1985 study) and each time-point typically represented a cross-section of a different geographic area, similar methodologies to measure resting pulse rate were used in each study at each time-point. The authors reported that the mean resting pulse rate in assumed prepubertal children (mean age 10.3 years) had increased by 2 beats/min in boys and 1 beat/min in girls over the 28 years. These increases would seem to be independent of concurrent secular changes in height and, interestingly, body mass index (BMI). The authors postulated that persistence of these increases into adulthood could elevate later cardiovascular disease risk, especially in men. If resting pulse rate is regarded as an adequate marker of physical fitness in children, the results align with other cross-sectional results from the Chelmsford Fitness and …

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  • Contributors All authors conceived and designed the paper; drafted the paper and revised it critically for important intellectual content; had final approval of the version to be published; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Funding The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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