Physical fitness in rural and urban children and adolescents from Spain

J Sci Med Sport. 2011 Sep;14(5):417-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.04.004. Epub 2011 May 28.


Objective: We aimed to examine the differences in fitness components between rural and urban Spanish children and adolescents.

Design/method: A sample of 2569 school children (1068) and adolescents (1501) from urban and rural areas from the region of Aragón (Spain). Physical fitness was assessed by 7 tests: 20 m shuttle run, speed shuttle run, sit and reach, standing long jump, handgrip strength, bent arm hang and sit-ups in 30s (s). Differences (in fitness and anthropometry) by place of residence were examined by one-way analysis of covariance.

Results: Rural young people had higher cardiorespiratory fitness, but lower speed-agility and flexibility than urban young people (all p<0.001; mean differences=1.5 mL/kg per min, 0.4s and 0.9 cm respectively). Regarding muscular fitness, rural young people had a better performance in handgrip strength (mean difference=0.8 kg), bent arm hang (mean difference=2.3s), and a lower performance in sit-ups in 30s (mean difference=0.9s) (all p<0.001), compared to their urban peers. Rural young people had a lower body mass, body mass index (BMI) and sum of skinfolds (all p<0.05; mean differences=1.1 kg, 0.3 kg/m(2) and 4.9 mm respectively) than their urban peers. Effect size was small-medium (Cohen's d=0.1-0.3).

Conclusion: Rural Spanish children and adolescents had overall a healthier profile than their urban peers in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness, upper- and lower-limb muscular fitness and adiposity, while they performed worse in speed-agility and flexibility. The place of residence should be taken into account when implementing effective interventions to promote physical activity and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Adolescent
  • Arm / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Running / physiology
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Upper Extremity / physiology
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*