Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Percentile Values of Physical Fitness Levels among Polish Children Aged 7 to 19 Years - a Population-Based Study

Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Percentile Values of Physical Fitness Levels among Polish Children Aged 7 to 19 Years - a Population-Based Study

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Physical fitness is nowadays considered as a powerful marker of health and quality of life in childhood (1, 2). Although all the clinical manifestations usually appear in adulthood, the aetiologic commencement of the disease seems to occur in childhood (3). In this regard, a higher physical fitness level in children has been associated with more positive health-related outcomes, regarding the present and future risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, skeletal health, and even mental health related to depression, anxiety, mood status and self-esteem (1, 2).

Although physical fitness is in part determined genetically, it can also be significantly influenced by environmental factors such as physical activity (4, 5). Unfortunately, children and youth nowadays rarely meet the minimum daily physical activity recommendation (6, 7). In Poland for instance, currently only 10-24% of children meet the recommended daily levels of physical activity (7). In addition, a clear-cut secular trend to higher body mass index and poorer levels of physical fitness among Polish children have been observed in the last decades (8, 9). Health promotion policies of our countries should be therefore designed to promote health-related levels of physical fitness from childhood (1). Since in Poland all children attend school, it may play an important role in public health and in promotion of healthy behaviours such as encouraging children to achieve recommended levels of physical activity (1).

For the above mentioned reasons, introducing physical fitness testing in educational setting seems to be an important national health issue (10). However, for the optimal interpretation of the children's physical fitness levels, up-to-date reference values from a random and large representative sample of the studied population are therefore required. Ortega et al. (10) recently proposed some reference values of physical fitness among European adolescents. Unfortunately, children's physical fitness levels depend on several biological and environmental factors which differ in each country. Since the preceding study was based on a convenient sample of the population (i.e. it was only arbitrarily selected 3,428 adolescents from ten big European cities, and none of the Polish city was included), these references are not valid for evaluation of the physical fitness levels of Polish children. In addition, the previous study did not provide the reference values for children under 13 years of age. Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to report gender and age-specific percentile values for fourteen commonly used field-based physical fitness tests among a random and large national representative sample of Polish children aged 7 to 19 years.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Participants

The study was a part of the project "Health of Polish children and adolescents with regard to the growth and level of physical fitness" registered at the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Polish National Sciences Centre (N N404 078036). This project was a descriptive cross-sectional and population-based study that examined the growth and physical fitness in a random and large national representative sample of schoolchildren aged 7 to 19 years in Poland.

Participants were selected by a two-phase proportional cluster sampling using as a reference the census database of the Polish National Ministry of Education (retrieved from the Educational Information System). Firstly, the schools were randomly selected from each province according to geographic localization (rural, urban-rural, urban) with regards to age and gender. Out of 696 schools invited to participate, a total of 518 schools agreed to participate in the study. In the second phase, classes from these schools were randomly selected. All children from the selected classrooms were invited to participate in the study. Finally, 413 schools (59% of invited schools) conducted a study in accordance with all requirements. …

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