Physical Fitness in Prepubescent Children: An Update

By Marta, Carlos; Marinho, Daniel A. et al. | Journal of Physical Education and Sport, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Physical Fitness in Prepubescent Children: An Update


Marta, Carlos, Marinho, Daniel A., Marques, Mário C., Journal of Physical Education and Sport


Introduction

Physical fitness is a major marker of health status at any age (Ortega et al., 2007). The recognition that physical fitness is a key determinant in healthy lifestyles based increasingly on criteria referenced to general health and not merely to motor performance has produced a wide range of studies on the influence of various factors on physical fitness levels, in particular the influence of body fat and physical activity. However, there are few studies that link somatotype with fitness in young people. Most studies in this context refer to the influence of body mass index in the motor performance in youth, but somatotype has been found to be inherited to a greater extent than body mass index (Reis et al., 2007).

Unfortunately, there exist evidences suggesting that physical activity (WHO, 2010) and physical fitness (Matton et al., 2007) has declined worldwide in the last decades among children. One of the pointed reasons for this decreased levels is that there is an apparent avoidance of children of the physical education classes and regular physical activity (Roetert, 2004) due, in part, to lack of planning that takes into account the interest, motivation and success of children in the execution of the exercises, respecting the differences between them, including gender differences (Haff, 2003). Physical education classes or extracurricular activities commonly include boys and girls, and this requires teachers, coaches and trainers to establish a match between the goals they want to achieve and the specificity of each gender (NIH, 1996).

Because of the low aerobic capacity in children is associated with risk factors of cardiovascular disease (Anderssen et al., 2007), the majority of the research has focused on activities that enhance cardiorespiratory fitness disregarding, for instance, neuromotor fitness conditions based on muscular strength (Cepero et al., 2011). However, it is recognized that youth strength training can be a safe and effective method of conditioning and should be an important component of youth fitness programs, health promotion objectives, and injury prevention (Faigenbaum et al., 2009). Increasing both aerobic and muscular fitness is essential for promoting health and should be a desirable goal in a training program (Taanila et al., 2011).

What often happens is that resistance and endurance training are regularly performed concurrently at school or extracurricular activities (Santos et al, 2012), as well as in most exercise programs in wellness, fitness, and rehabilitative settings in an attempt to obtain gains in more than 1 physiologic system to achieve total conditioning, to meet functional demands, or to improve several health-related components simultaneously (Shaw et al., 2009). So it is important to know if performing resistance and endurance training in the same workout does not affect strength development in children, usually referred to as "interference phenomenon" (García-Pallarés & Izquierdo 2011).

Physical fitness

The term physical fitness is often erroneously used as a synonym for aerobic fitness rather than as an umbrella term to embrace all health-related fitness components (Hands et al., 2009). Physical fitness in children has been defined as the aptitude to realize physic tasks without fatigue related to the cardiorespiratory general resistance, muscular specific resistance, and the levels of muscular force, extent of movement, speed and coordination (Deforche et al., 2003). The majority of studies on the physical fitness centered on the aerobic capacity, neglecting the neuromotor aptitude based on the muscular force, flexibility and speed (Cepero et al., 2011). However, the improvements in the muscular capacity, the speed and agility, instead of the aerobic capacity, seem to have a positive effect on the musculoskeletal health. Armstrong and Welsman (1997) reported that the neuromotor system can be as important as the aerobic capacity in the maintenance of the health. …

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