Geographical variation in health-related physical fitness and body composition among Chilean 8th graders: a nationally representative cross-sectional study

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 25;9(9):e108053. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108053. eCollection 2014.


Purpose: In addition to excess adiposity, low cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and low musculoskeletal fitness (MSF) are important independent risk factors for future cardio-metabolic disease in adolescents, yet global fitness surveillance in adolescents is poor. The objective of this study was to describe and investigate geographical variation in levels of health-related physical fitness, including CRF, MSF, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference (WC) in Chilean 8th graders.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was based on a population-based, representative sample of 19,929 8th graders (median age = 14 years) in the 2011 National Physical Education Survey from Chile. CRF was assessed with the 20-meter shuttle run test, MSF with standing broad jump, and body composition with BMI and WC. Data were classified according to health-related standards. Prevalence of levels of health-related physical fitness was mapped for each of the four variables, and geographical variation was explored at the country level by region and in the Santiago Metropolitan Area by municipality.

Results: Girls had significantly higher prevalence of unhealthy CRF, MSF, and BMI than boys (p<0.05). Overall, 26% of boys and 55% of girls had unhealthy CRF, 29% of boys and 35% of girls had unhealthy MSF, 29% of boys and 44% of girls had unhealthy BMI, and 31% of adolescents had unhealthy WC. High prevalence of unhealthy fitness levels concentrates in the northern and middle regions of the country and in the North and Southwest sectors for the Santiago Metropolitan Area.

Conclusion: Prevalence of unhealthy CRF, MSF, and BMI is relatively high among Chilean 8th graders, especially in girls, when compared with global estimates. Identification of geographical regions and municipalities with high prevalence of unhealthy physical fitness presents opportunity for targeted intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Chile
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
  • Waist Circumference

Grants and funding

The authors have no funding or support to report.