Motor skills in relation to body-mass index, physical activity, TV-watching, and socioeconomic status in German four-to-17-year-old children

PLoS One. 2021 May 17;16(5):e0251738. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251738. eCollection 2021.


Background: The present study describes motor skills in a large sample of German children and adolescents and investigates associations with age, gender, body-mass index, physical activity, television time, and socioeconomic status.

Methods: 2,106 children (1076 boys, 1030 girls) aged 4 to 17 years performed five different motor tests for strength (pushups, standing long jump), coordination (backward balancing, jumping side-to-side) and flexibility (forward bend) within the framework of the LIFE Child study (Leipzig, Germany). Anthropometric parameters were assessed through standardized measurement. Data on physical activity, television time, and socioeconomic status were collected via questionnaires. Linear regression analyses were applied to assess relations.

Results: Strength and coordination performance were higher in older than in younger children. While boys showed a higher performance in strengths tests than girls, girls performed better in flexibility and coordination during precision tasks (backward balancing). In terms of coordination under time constraint (jumping side-to-side), both genders produced similar results. Lower body-mass index, higher physical activity, and higher socioeconomic status were significantly related to better motor skills. Longer television times were significantly associated with lower performance in long jump.

Conclusions: The present findings are similar to data collected at the beginning of the century, indicating that motor skills have hardly changed in recent years. The findings furthermore suggest that children from lower social strata, children with higher body weight, and children who move little have a higher risk of developing insufficient motor skills and should therefore be given special support.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Social Class
  • Television*

Grant support

This publication is supported by LIFE – Leipzig Research Center for Civilization Diseases, University of Leipzig. LIFE is funded by means of the European Union, by means of the European Social Fund (ESF,, by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF,, and by means of the Free State of Saxony. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.