The Relationships among Fundamental Motor Skills, Health-Related Physical Fitness, and Body Fatness in South Korean Adolescents with Mental Retardation

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine the following: (a) the relationships among the latent constructs of fundamental motor skills (FMS), health-related physical fitness (HRF), and observed body fatness in South Korean adolescents with mental retardation (MR); (b) the indirect effect of fundamental motor skills on body fatness when mediated by health-related fitness; and (c) whether the degree of MR and gender affects these relationships. Students ages 13 to 18 years (287 boys and 134 girls) were recruited for the study. Separate structural equation models were estimated based on gender and the level of disability: mild or moderate MR. Group differences in the model structure were not found, so the data were combined and a single model estimated. The results showed that FMS significantly contributed to HRF (standardized effects [beta] = .53), p < .01 and indirectly contributed to decreased body fatness mediated by HRF (-.2 7), p < .01. HRF directly contributed to decreased fatness (-.50), p <. 01. The results from this study support the importance of both increased FMS and increased HRF in relation to decreased body fatness.

Key words: intellectual disabilities, movement skills, obesity


Obesity is one of the most significant public health problems globally, because it is associated with coronary heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes (Ebbeling, Pawlak, & Ludwig, 2002; Styne, 2001; World Health Organization, 1990). Over the past decade, the prevalence of obesity has increased in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, escalating the incidence of obesity-related health complications (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007; Kim, Ahn, & Nam, 2005; Kopelman, 2000; Magarey, Daniels, & Boulton, 2001). It has been shown that individuals with mental retardation (MR) exhibit a higher prevalence of obesity than the general population (Beange, McElduff, & Baker, 1995; Draheim, Williams, & McCubbin, 2002; Rimmer, Braddock, & Fujiura, 1993, 1994; Rimmer & Wang, 2005). Identifying critical factors that contribute to obesity in individuals with MR may allow public health officials to shape policies to improve the health and quality of life for this population.

Among individuals with MR, it has been shown that adults with mild to moderate MR tend to have a higher rate of obesity than adults with severe MR (Rimmer & Yamaki, 2006). A study conducted on adults with MR living in community settings (e.g., residential housing or with family members) showed the level of MR appeared to affect the chances of becoming obese; adults with mild to moderate MR were more obese than those with severe MR (Fox & Rotatori, 1982). Hove (2004) confirmed this finding, showing that 10.6% individuals with severe MR were obese whereas 26.6% of the individuals with mild MR were obese. Similar results were found in a study that investigated the prevalence of obesity in institutionalized adults with MR (Kelly, Rimmer, & Ness, 1986). These researchers established that the degree of MR was inversely related to the prevalence of obesity.

In recent decades, more adults with MR reside in community settings than in institutional settings (Braddock, 1999). In this environment, the decision to be physically active and make informed nutritional choices becomes the responsibility of the individual. It is reasonable to theorize that if children and adolescents are properly educated and equipped with the tools to enjoy an active lifestyle later in life, then the prevalence of obesity might be controlled to a certain extent. The acquisition of fundamental motor skills and health-related physical fitness has traditionally been the focus of adapted physical education (Dunn & Leitschuh, 2006; Sherrill, 2004). Both constructs may be direct or indirect determinants of obesity in this population.

In children without disabilities, significant negative correlations have been reported between body fatness as reflected by the body mass index and fundamental motor skills (Graf et al. …