Global warming will increase health risks for children •

A new review study conducted by the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia found that record levels of physical inactivity and obesity among children today will negatively impact their health as temperatures rise globally, putting them at increased risk of develop heat-related health problems, such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Unfortunately, current climate change policies fail to adequately address these issues and encourage children to incorporate exercise into their daily lives to increase their resilience in the face of a warmer world.

In conducting a comprehensive review of more than 150 medical and scientific studies on the relationship between children’s fitness and heat, study author Shawnda Morrison – an environmental exercise physiologist at the University of Ljubljana – found that overweight children were more than twice as likely to have difficulty regulating their body temperature as normal-weight youngsters when exercising outdoors. In addition, she found that emergency department attendance at children’s hospitals was higher on the hottest days, with young children particularly likely to need emergency care.

The review also found that children’s aerobic capacity is currently 30% lower than that of their parents at the same age, while children’s physical activity levels have been steadily declining around the world, particularly over the past three last decades. Most children fail to respond World Health OrganizationThe directive to perform at least one hour of physical activity a day – a problem further exacerbated by lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr Morrison says rising temperatures could further restrict children’s physical activity when parents perceive outside temperatures as ‘too hot to play’, making it harder for unfit children to maintain physical activity levels necessary to stay healthy.

“Healthier adults are better able to tolerate higher temperatures, due to a combination of physiological, behavioral and psychological factors,” Dr Morrison said. “Yet, as the world heats up, children are the least fit they have ever been. It is imperative that children are encouraged to engage in daily physical activity to develop and maintain their physical condition, so that they like to move their bodies and it doesn’t feel like “work” or “chore” to them.

In order to address these issues, parents and teachers need to ensure that children participate in active, structured play and have access to physical education classes at school. “Do what you love to do, whether it’s a family bike ride or rollerblading, a walk in the woods or a walk with the dog,” urged Dr Morrison.

“Make sure that the activity increases everyone’s heart rate, enthusiasm and positive energy and, above all, try not to avoid the heat completely, but choose less hot times of the day (mornings/evenings) to stay active, because we have to stay ourselves evolving in this new warming world, ”she concluded.

The study is published in the journal Temperature.

By Andrei Ionescu, Personal editor

Teresa H. Sadler