Secular trends in the aerobic fitness test performance and body mass index of Korean children and adolescents (1968-2000)

Int J Sports Med. 2007 Apr;28(4):314-20. doi: 10.1055/s-2006-924357. Epub 2006 Oct 6.


There is increasing evidence that the aerobic fitness performance of children is declining, at least in developed countries. To see if there was evidence of similar trends in a non-Western country, this study analysed data on 6-18-year-old Koreans tested between 1968 and 2000 using distance runs ranging from 600 to 1200 m. All existing data on the results of children's aerobic fitness tests in Korea were collated. In addition to six individual studies, very large datasets were available from the Korean Ministries of Education, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Data on a total of 22,127,265 6-18-year-old children were available in the form of group means and standard deviations. Data were collated for each age x sex x test group, and performances were expressed as percentages of the fitted values for the year 1992 to standardise across tests, ages and sexes. All age x sex x test groups were then combined, and curves were fitted using weighted regression. A two-linear segment model best described the pattern of change (r = 0.83, p < 0.001). There was a relatively slow decline (0.26 % per year) in the aerobic performance of Korean children between 1968 and 1984. After 1984, however, there was a steep decline in performance, averaging 0.80 % per year. The rate of decline was greater in boys, younger children and children from outside the capital Seoul. Changes in running performance showed a similar pattern to changes in estimated body mass index. Compared to other countries, there has been a sharp decline in Korean children's performance on tests of aerobic fitness, which has been concurrent with increases in estimated body mass index.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Korea
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*