Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Keeping Up with the Kids

Credit: natasnow/Adobe

Credit: natasnow/Adobe

By Anthony Blazevich & Sebastien Ratel

Children seem to be able to play for hours without tiring. Only now are we beginning to understand the physiological reasons why.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

We’ve all seen it before. Children seem to run, jump, hop, throw, kick and bounce for hours on end. It’s impossible for us adults to keep up.

When children play they tend to choose to perform short bouts of activity separated by brief periods of rest, unlike adults who regularly perform long bouts of slow exercise like running or walking long distances. And when children do play, they are able to do it for a very long time.

This ability to continue physical activity for long periods is quite remarkable and largely unexpected. Children have shorter limbs than adults, so they need to take more steps to walk and run, and this should make them tire quicker. Children don’t make best use of their in-built energy return systems, where the work done by muscles is stored in and then released from elastic tendons to propel us or our bats and balls.

So children tend to waste more energy when they do work. Also, they tend to be less skilful, so they adopt less efficient movement patterns that consume energy and should cause greater fatigue.

So why is it that children seem to have boundless energy? In a study led by Prof Sebastien Ratel at the Université Clermont Auvergne in France and published in Frontiers in Physiology (https://goo.gl/SgV8C2), we tried to find out exactly how “fit” kids...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.