The “Fit for Life” cross-sectional study put 12,835 teenagers and graduates between 16 and 25-years-old through their paces and found that by age 20 the risk for unfavorable symptoms increases substantially. By the age of 25, some 50 percent of men are overweight, 60 percent smoke, and one-third are “sport abstinent,” the study said.
Only one-fourth of the women in the study were found to be overweight, but two-thirds were confirmed smokers and they engaged even less in physical activity. Meanwhile only one-quarter of the study participants exhibited no cardiovascular risk factors.
“The industries affected by this are, for example, the security and emergency services and of course the skilled manual work sector,” Max Wunderlich from the Sport University in Cologne told The Local on Tuesday.
But apart from the professions where physical fitness is most obviously required, even normal office jobs could be a problem for plump couch potatoes. “There might not be an immediate effect on desk jobs, but in the long term it will, because even constant sitting involves a certain level of physical fitness,” Wunderlich said.
Their unhealthy lifestyle not only lowers their vocational options, but puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease and increases costs for the national healthcare system, the study found.
“It has to do with the special life situation between childhood and adolescent,” Wunderlich said. “You can probably blame a lot simply on a lack of time. They eat fast food, which is quick but very rich in calories and then they put off what is the most time consuming: Physical exercise,” he said.
Even though sport is a requirement in schools across the country, it doesn't seem to be enough to get the kids fit for the working life. “The 1.5 hours of sport in school can't compensate high calorie intake through fast food, for example,” Wunderlich explained. “But it is supposed to spark interest in physical exercise," he added, pointing out that it takes a lot more than just school sport to slim youngsters down.
The study called for “urgent efficient cross-institutional prevention campaigns to promote and continually support a health-conscious lifestyle,” but the call could be too late. Currently two-thirds of adult men and more than half of the adult women across the country are overweight.
“It is never too late,” Wunderlich said, though. “Even in the mid-fifties regular exercise about three times weekly can make changes you can profit from in just a few years time, not to mention what prevention can do for the youngsters,” he added.
Volunteers between 16 to 25 years-old were anthropometrically investigated and interviewed about their lifestyle, and also took physical performance tests for the study. Adolescents with a body mass index (BMI) above 25 where classed as overweight.