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Objective - Pedometer

240. Changes in cardiorespiratory fitness among children and adolescents in Australia: 1997 and 2004

Research Article
Okely, Anthony D. et al
May 2010

Commentary by Rona Macniven, Cluster for Physical Activity and Health (CPAH), University of Sydney

This paper presents trends in cardio-respiratory fitness in young people in New South Wales from 1997-2004. Cardio-respiratory fitness is important as it protects against cardiovascular disease and there is some evidence that it tracks from childhood to adulthood. Overall, there were no significant changes in fitness between surveys, but differences among socioeconomic groups were evident.

Participants were randomly selected from Grades 4 and 6 in primary school and Grades 8 and 10 in high schools in the identical NSW Schools Fitness and Physical Activity Survey (SFPAS 1997) and the NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS 2004). The young people completed a 20m shuttle run test (‘beep test’), which provided measures of cardio-respiratory fitness and demographic information such as gender, age and postcode, to determine socioeconomic status (SES), were derived from a self-report questionnaire. Fitness was categorized as adequate or inadequate using the age- and sex-adjusted criterion reference standard of FITNESSGRAM from the US Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research.

The prevalence of adequate cardio-respiratory fitness did not change significantly from 1997 to 2004 for primary or high school boys or girls and ranged from 57% (primary school boys, 2004) to 73% (primary school girls, 2004). However, there was a small increase in the median number of laps completed for both primary and high school girls and high school boys. SES differences were apparent; the most socially advantaged boys and girls had higher fitness levels and demonstrated greater increases than those from socially disadvantaged regions.

These findings call for continued and strengthened efforts to increase fitness levels in young people through promoting physical activity both within and outside of schools. This is particularly important in lower SES areas to reduce current disparities.