Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to compare the health-related physical fitness and physical activity behaviors of Old Order Mennonite children to both rural and urban-dwelling children living a contemporary Canadian lifestyle.
Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used to compare the physical fitness and physical activity characteristics of three groups of children between the ages of 8-13 yr. A total of 124 Old Order Mennonite children (OOM) from Ontario, Canada, were compared with contemporary living children from urban (USK, N = 110) and rural (RSK, N = 165) Saskatchewan, Canada. Fitness was assessed using measures of height, weight, triceps skinfold, grip strength, push-ups, partial curl-ups, and aerobic fitness. Physical activity levels were directly measured for seven consecutive days using a MTI Actigraph accelerometer model 7164.
Results: After controlling for maturational age, analyses revealed that OOM children had a smaller triceps skinfold than USK children (P < 0.01), a greater aerobic fitness score than RSK children (P < 0.05), and greater grip strength than both RSK and USK children (P < 0.001). The OOM children also accumulated more minutes of MVPA per day than RSK or USK groups (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: This research demonstrates that OOM children tend to be leaner, stronger and more active than urban and rural dwelling children living a contemporary Canadian lifestyle despite having no physical education, no institutionalized sport, and low socioeconomic status. These findings support the notion that that contemporary living may facilitate a decline in fitness and physical activity among some Canadian children.