Selected body composition and growth measures of junior elite gymnasts

J Am Diet Assoc. 1991 Jan;91(1):29-33.


Selected body composition measures of female junior elite gymnasts (n = 146) were evaluated cross-sectionally (ie, we observed a younger and an older group at one point in time, not the same individuals over time). For certain comparisons, the gymnasts were grouped into a younger group (7- to 10-year-olds) and an older group (11- to 14-year-olds). Gymnasts were in the 50th percentile for weight:height ratio, regardless of age. However, weight:age and height:age percentiles progressively dropped from the 48th to the 20th as age increased. Body fat percentage did not differ significantly between age groups. Triceps and subscapular skinfolds were 63% and 56%, respectively, of the age-related standard for the younger group and 52% and 39%, respectively, of the age-related standard for the older group. Arm muscle circumference and calculated arm muscle area of the gymnasts were in about the 75th percentile, regardless of age grouping. In general, as they grew older, gymnasts became progressively smaller in weight and height for age but were highly muscled for size. The steady age-related drop in height:age and weight:age percentile may be attributable to nutritional deficits, a sport-specific selection favoring retention of small but powerful gymnasts, or a combination of these factors. We recommend that young gymnasts be carefully observed longitudinally by trained nutrition professionals to ensure that inadequate nutrient intake is not a contributing factor to poor growth or health.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Adolescent
  • Aging / physiology
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Female
  • Growth*
  • Gymnastics*
  • Humans
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Skinfold Thickness