The role of age, sex, anthropometry, and body composition as determinants of physical fitness in nonobese children aged 6-12

PeerJ. 2020 Mar 17;8:e8657. doi: 10.7717/peerj.8657. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Purpose: The determinants of physical fitness in children have been given limited attention. In particular, the relative role of chronological age, sex, anthropometry, and body composition in physical fitness of children has been barely investigated. This cross-sectional study investigated determinants of physical fitness using a set of predictive variables including, in addition to chronological age and sex, a large panel of anthropometric measurements as well as body composition. The study was carried out in a convenience sample of children aged 6-12 participating in a summer camp.

Methods: One-hundred-ninety-three children (128 males) fulfilled all requirements and entered analysis. Health-related physical fitness components (speed, muscular power and balance) were explored by means of field tests, namely the 30-m dash test for running speed, the standing long jump and the seated chest pass test for lower limbs and upper body muscular power, respectively, and the flamingo balance test for static balance. Determinants of physical fitness were investigated by regression analysis using chronological age, sex, anthropometry, and body composition in a hierarchical approach. To minimize the expected effect of collinearity in predictor variables, an original statistical approach using Random Forests analysis was adopted.

Results: Age predicted 45.2%, 43.6%, 35.6% and 25.6%; and sex 9.5%, 10.7%, 6.3% and 2.0% of variance in the 30-m dash, seated chest pass, standing long jump, and flamingo balance test, respectively. Anthropometry and body composition explained a limited or no percentage of variance. The adjusted R 2 (root mean square error) was 0.61 (0.31 s), 0.45 (0.32 m), 0.58 (0.15 m) and 0.41 (0.75 logs) for the 30-m dash, seated chest pass, standing long jump, and flamingo balance test, respectively making these models useful when physical fitness tests are not feasible.

Conclusions: We highlighted the respective role of chronological age, sex, anthropometry, and body composition in physical fitness of children in the wide age range 6-12 years. Data confirm and expand on previous literature by showing with a strictly conservative statistical approach that chronological age is a main determinant of physical fitness of both boys and girls, sex playing a limited role. The role of anthropometry was even less important, and no role was found for body composition. These findings should be considered when planning/implementing motor development or physical education programs.

Keywords: 30-m dash test; Flamingo balance test; Random forests; Seated chest pass test; Standing broad jump test.

Grant support

This work was supported by Department funding to Carlo Zancanaro and Chiara Milanese. There was no additional external funding received for this study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.