Nationwide fitness level of Japanese children has hit rock bottom

Children’s fitness at ‘critical’ level, survey finds

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The physical fitness of primary school students declined after peaking in fiscal 1987, and remained at low levels over the 10 years through fiscal 2006, according to a survey by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry.

Commenting on the results announced Saturday, a ministry official said, “Maybe we’ve now hit a critical level from which it’s impossible to get any worse.”

The fiscal 2006 survey of physical strength and athletic ability was conducted on about 74,000 people aged between 6 to 79 from May to October in 2006. Among the results, the ministry focused on analyzing the declining trend in fitness levels for primary shcool studetns.

According to the survey, among 11 year-old sixth-graders, the average time required boys to run a 50 meter sprint was 8.89 seconds — 0.29 seconds slower than 20 years ago, when it peaked, but the same as fiscal 1996. Girls could throw a softball 17.24 meters on average–3.08 meters less than in fiscal 1987, and 0.59 meters less than in fiscal 1996.

Taking into account performances in other events, such as the standing long jump, the survey found that while the record averages sharply worsened between 1987 to 1996, they remained roughly flat over the following 10 years.

“Many children can’t run straight while others get injured because they too slow to duck out of the way of a ball,” a ministry official said. “The leveling–off of the decline among schoolkids doesn’t mean things are getting better, just that we’ve hit rock bottom and can’t get any worse.”

The ministry suggested that the decline was due to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles led by the children of today, who spend more time playing video games or studying at cram schools than their forebears.

October 10, 2007

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