Standardized childhood fitness percentiles derived from school-based testing

J Pediatr. 2012 Jul;161(1):120-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.01.036. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


Objective: To develop a statewide school-based program of measuring and reporting cardiovascular fitness levels in children, and to create age- and sex-specific cardiovascular fitness percentile-based distribution curves.

Study design: A pilot study validated cardiovascular fitness assessment with Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) testing as an accurate predictor of cardiovascular fitness measured by maximal oxygen consumption treadmill testing. Schools throughout the state were then recruited to perform PACER and body mass index (BMI) measurement and report de-identified data to a centralized database.

Results: Data on 20 631 individual students with a mean age 12.1 ± 2.0 years, BMI of 21.4 ± 5.1, and a cardiovascular fitness measured with PACER of 29.7 ± 18.2 laps (estimated maximal oxygen consumption of 36.5 mL/kg/min) were submitted for analysis. Standardized fitness percentiles were calculated for age and sex.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of performing, reporting, and recording annual school-based assessments of cardiovascular fitness to develop standardized childhood fitness percentiles on the basis of age and sex. Such data can be useful in comparing populations and assessing initiatives that aim to improve childhood fitness. Because health consequences of obesity result from both adiposity and physical inactivity, supplementation of BMI measurement with tracking of cardiovascular fitness adds a valuable tool for large-scale health assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reference Values
  • Schools