Objective: To analyse the effect of extracurricular physical activities on fat mass accumulation and physical fitness during growth in early pubertal males.
Design: Longitudinal study.
Subjects: A total of 42 male children (9.4+/-1.4 years, Tanner I-II and 12.7+/-1.5 years, Tanner III-IV, before and after the 3.3 years follow-up, respectively), randomly sampled from the population of Gran Canaria (Spain), 26 of them physically active (PA, at least 3 h per week during 3 years) and 16 non-physically active (non-PA).
Measurements: Body composition (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), anthropometrics (body circumferences and skinfolds) and physical fitness variables (dynamic and isometric force, anaerobic capacity and maximal aerobic power) were determined in all subjects.
Results: Both groups had comparable body sizes at the start and the end of the study. Body mass index increased with growth more in the PA than in the non-PA group (P<0.05). However, fat mass accumulation with growth was lower in the PA than in the non-PA (P<0.05). There was a positive relationship between the increment of total and trunkal fat mass, especially in non-active children (r2=0.93). In contrast, there was an inverse relationship between the total lean mass growth and the accumulation of total and regional fat mass (r=-0.37 to -0.41, all P<0.05). Physical fitness was maintained in the PA, while it worsened in the non-PA children.
Conclusions: Without any dietary intervention, children who regularly participate in at least 3 h per week of sports activities are more protected against total and regional fat mass accumulation. They also increase their total lean and bone mass to a greater extent than children who do not participate in extracurricular sport activities. In addition, PA children maintain their physical fitness during growth, while it deteriorates in the non-PA children.