Objective: This study investigated differences in balance and postural skills in normal-weight versus overweight prepubertal boys.
Methods: Fifty-seven 8-10-year-old boys were categorized overweight (N = 25) or normal-weight (N = 32) according to the International Obesity Task Force cut-off points for overweight in children. The Balance Master, a computerized pressure plate system, was used to objectively measure six balance skills: sit-to-stand, walk, step up/over, tandem walk (walking on a line), unilateral stance and limits of stability. In addition, three standardized field tests were employed: standing on one leg on a balance beam, walking heel-to-toe along the beam and the multiple sit-to-stand test.
Results: Overweight boys showed poorer performances on several items assessed on the Balance Master. Overweight boys had slower weight transfer (p < 0.05), lower rising index (p < 0.05) and greater sway velocity (p < 0.001) in the sit-to-stand test, greater step width while walking (p < 0.05) and lower speed when walking on a line (p < 0.01) compared with normal-weight counterparts. Performance on the step up/over test, the unilateral stance and the limits of stability were comparable between both groups. On the balance beam, overweight boys could not hold their balance on one leg as long (p < 0.001) and had fewer correct steps in the heel-to-toe test (p < 0.001) than normal-weight boys. Finally, overweight boys were slower in standing up and sitting down five times in the multiple sit-to-stand task (p < 0.01).
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that when categorised by body mass index (BMI) level, overweight prepubertal boys displayed lower capacity on several static and dynamic balance and postural skills.