Physical fitness and physical activity in obese and nonobese Flemish youth

Obes Res. 2003 Mar;11(3):434-41. doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.59.


Objective: To assess different aspects of physical fitness and physical activity in obese and nonobese Flemish youth.

Research methods and procedures: A random sample of 3214 Flemish schoolchildren was selected and divided into an "obese" and "nonobese" group based on body mass index and sum of skinfolds. Physical fitness was assessed by the European physical fitness test battery. Physical activity was estimated by a modified version of the Baecke Questionnaire.

Results: Obese subjects had inferior performances on all tests requiring propulsion or lifting of the body mass (standing-broad jump, sit-ups, bent-arm hang, speed shuttle run, and endurance shuttle run) compared with their nonobese counterparts (p < 0.001). In contrast, the obese subjects showed greater strength on handgrip (p < 0.001). Both groups had similar levels of leisure-time physical activity; however, nonobese boys had a higher sport index than their obese counterparts (p < 0.05).

Discussion: Results of this study show that obese subjects had poorer performances on weight-bearing tasks, but did not have lower scores on all fitness components. To encourage adherence to physical activity in obese youth, it is important that activities are tailored to their capabilities. Results suggest that weight-bearing activities should be limited at the start of an intervention with obese participants and alternative activities that rely more on static strength used.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Belgium
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Running
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Weight-Bearing