Study: Boys less fit than ever and pandemic is to blame

An annual survey on the physical fitness of Japanese children shows that they just don’t have the right stuff like they used to, and that is likely due to a lack of opportunities to exercise stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Japan Sports Agency on Dec. 24 released the results of its latest study that found record low levels in physical fitness among boys in the fifth grade as well as the second year of junior high school.

Between April and July, around 2.01 million children across Japan in those two grades took part in a physical fitness program that measured eight activities, including sit-ups, 20-meter shuttle runs, the standing long jump and throwing a softball or handball.

Scores were given for each item and the figures totaled for every student.

The result was dismal. Boys scored the lowest scores since the program began in 2008.

Sports Agency officials speculated the finding was due to the fact that children were too preoccupied with their smartphones, coupled with restrictions on activities at school due to the novel coronavirus.

The pandemic led to the cancellation of last year’s physical fitness program.

The scores for fifth graders dropped from 53.61 points recorded in the 2019 school year to 52.53, while the decrease for second-year students in junior high school went from 41.56 points to 41.05.

The scores for girls had risen for five straight years until 2018, but showed declines in both 2019 and this year.

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