The Association between Motor Skill Competence and Physical Fitness in Young Adults

By Stodden, David; Langendorfer, Stephen et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, June 2009 | Go to article overview
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The Association between Motor Skill Competence and Physical Fitness in Young Adults


Stodden, David, Langendorfer, Stephen, Roberton, Mary Ann, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


We examined the relationship between competence in three fundamental motor skills (throwing, kicking, and jumping) and six measures of health-related physical fitness in young adults (ages 18-25). We assessed motor skill competence using product scores of maximum kicking and throwing speed and maximum jumping distance. A factor analysis indicated the 12-min run/walk, percent body fat, curl-ups, grip strength, and maximum leg press strength all loaded on one factor defining the construct of "overall fitness. "Multiple regression analyses indicated that the product scores for jumping (74%), kicking (58%), and throwing (59%) predicted 79% of the variance in overall fitness. Gender was not a significant predictor of fitness. Results suggest that developing motor skill competence may be fundamental in developing and maintaining adequate physical fitness into adulthood. These data represent the strongest to date on the relationship between motor skill competence and physical fitness.

Key words: motor development, physical activity, product scores, skill acquisition

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Developing healthy lifestyles includes maintaining appropriate levels of health-related physical fitness (e.g., muscular strength/endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, body composition, and flexibility) and physical activity. Maintaining physical fitness levels may reduce mortality risk and incidence of chronic diseases (Blair et al., 1995; CDC, 2001; Freedman, Dietz, Srinivasan, & Berenson 1999; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001) and muscular strength and endurance the functional limitations that lead to dependent care in the elderly (Brill, Macera, Davis, Blair, & Gordon, 2000; Buchner, Beresford, Larson, Lacroix, & Wagner, 1992).

While physical fitness in children, adolescents, and adults has been promoted (Blair et al., 1995; McKenzie et al., 2003; Okely, Booth, & Patterson, 2001; Sallis et al., 1997), relatively little is known about the effects of maintaining motor skills on physical fitness throughout the lifespan. Intermediate to high levels of competence in fundamental motor skills (FMS) required for successful participation in many sports and physical activities may be associated with higher levels of performance and health-related physical fitness. Many FMS (e.g., throwing, kicking, jumping, striking) involve ballistic actions that pit body mass against gravity, resulting in an increased demand for higher power outputs (Enoka, 2002; Fleisig, Barrentine, Zheng, Escamilla, &Andrews, 1999; Wrotniak, Epstein, Dorn, Jones, & Kondilis, 2006). FMS also may demand high levels of muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance to persist in these activities. In addition to body composition (level of obesity), these performance criteria are, in fact, foundational aspects of health-related physical fitness.

Although no formula exists for promoting sustained physical fitness and activity levels throughout the lifespan, identifying causal mechanisms and predictors of health-related physical fitness and activity is a crucial step toward developing strategies to promote and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Increasing physical fitness and activity during adolescence might mitigate the decline in these levels observed in some adults, as attitudes and habits regarding physical activity are developed primarily during the preadolescent years (Malina, 1996).

Malina (1996) speculated that sports participation during childhood and adolescence might form the foundation for continued activity into adulthood. Tammelin, Nayha, Hills, and Jarvelin (2003) showed that children's participation in sports-related activities could be an indicator of their physical activity levels into adulthood. Children who participate in sports at least twice a week, join sports clubs, and achieve high grades in school sports are likely to maintain high levels of physical activity in adulthood. High-endurance sports and those that require or encourage diversified skills are the most beneficial to enhancing adult physical activity and physical fitness.

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