Aims: This study quantifies the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between
young people’s fatness (BMI, skinfold thickness) and fitness (performance on tests of aerobic
fitness). Background: Over the last 20-30 years, young people have become fatter and
less fit. It is likely that the decline in fitness is largely due to increases in fatness. There are
strong mechanistic connections; within cohorts, variability in fatness accounts for about 20%
of variability in running performance; there is a strong correlation between overweight
prevalence and relative fitness across specific cohorts from different countries; and secular
declines in fitness coincide temporally with increases in BMI. Methods: Australians aged
10-12 years tested in 1985 were matched for age, sex, BMI and triceps skinfold thickness
with their counterparts tested in 1997 (n = 279 matched pairs), and 12-15 year-old tested in
1995-1996 were matched with their counterparts tested in 1999-2000 (n = 2,834 matched
pairs). Performance differences on running tests in the matched datasets were compared with
performance differences in the complete (unmatched) datasets. Results: Performance differences
persisted even when young people were matched for fatness. Matching for fatness
reduced overall performance differentials by 29-61%. Other factors such as reduced physical
activity and subsequent training effect are likely to have contributed to the decline.
Copyright / Drug Dosage
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