Mennonite children in better shape than other Canadian kids: study

Old Order Mennonite children are fitter, stronger and leaner than children living a contemporary lifestyle, despite not participating in organized sports or gym classes, a new study has found.

Although they don't participate in organized sports or take gym classes, Old Order Mennonite children are fitter, stronger and leaner than other Canadian children living a contemporary lifestyle, a study has found.

The study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that Old Order Mennonite children do up to 18 minutes more moderate or vigorous physical activity a day, on average, than other children studied.

Old Order Mennonites reject the use of modern technology. Children get physical activity through walking, traditional farming activities and household chores, which researchers cite as the reason for their fitness levels.

The study, which took place between September and December 2002, examined physical fitness and activity characteristics of Old Order Mennonite children from Ontario, urban Saskatchewan children and rural Saskatchewan children all aged 8 to 13.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Lethbridge found a strong link between lifestyles in the Saskatchewan children and reduced physical activity and fitness.

"What this study proves is that you don't need to do triathlons to stay fit and active," Mark Tremblay, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said in a news release.

"Children living traditional lifestyles have exercise embedded in their daily lives. In contrast, today's children engage more in passive activities, such as video games. This may go a long way in explaining why they are less physically fit."

The study also found that Old Order Mennonite children had leaner triceps than urban Saskatchewan children, a greater aerobic fitness score than rural Saskatchewan children, and greater grip strength than children in both rural and urban Saskatchewan .