Child obesity and fitness levels among Kenyan and Canadian children from urban and rural environments: a KIDS-CAN Research Alliance Study

Int J Pediatr Obes. 2011 Jun;6(2-2):e225-32. doi: 10.3109/17477166.2010.543683. Epub 2011 Jan 3.


Objective: This study was designed to gather anthropometric and fitness-related data on Kenyan children living in urban (UKEN) and rural (RKEN) environments and to compare them with previous data collected on Canadian children in order to examine the potential nutrition-physical activity transition.

Methods: Height, weight, waist circumference, triceps skinfolds were directly measured on rural (RKEN) and urban Kenyan (UKEN) children (n = 179, 9-13 years) and compared with existing data from Canadian children living in urban and rural environments (n = 274, 9-13 years). Aerobic fitness was measured using the 20 m shuttle run, flexibility using the sit-and-reach test and isometric handgrip strength was assessed.

Results: None of the RKEN children were overweight or obese (OWO). However, 6.8% of UKEN boys and 16.7% of girls were OWO. The RKEN children had lower BMI, waist circumference, and triceps skinfolds than all other groups (UKEN, and Canadian: p < 0.05). UKEN children were leaner than Canadian children (p < 0.05). Male and female RKEN children had higher running speeds, and aerobic fitness than UKEN children (p < 0.001). Isometric strength was not different between Kenyan groups and was not different from urban living Canadian children. UKEN children were the least flexible group, and girls were more flexible than boys in all groups.

Conclusions: Urban Kenyan children appear to be showing signs of the nutrition-physical activity transition, as judged by the anthropometric similarities to contemporary living Canadian children. Further support is provided by examining the difference in prevalence of overweight/obesity among UKEN compared with their RKEN counterparts and their lower aerobic fitness level.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Waist Circumference