Background: North American indigenous populations experience higher rates of obesity and chronic disease compared with nonindigenous populations. Improvements in musculoskeletal fitness can mitigate negative health outcomes, but is not well understood among indigenous populations. This review examines musculoskeletal fitness measures among North American indigenous populations. Methods: A total of 1632 citations were evaluated and 18 studies were included. Results: Comparisons of musculoskeletal fitness measures between North American indigenous men and boys and women and girls were generally not reported. The greatest left and right combined maximal grip strength and maximal leg strength among Inuit boys and men and girls and women were observed among 20–29 years age group. Maximal combined right and left grip strength declined from 1970 to 1990, by an average of 15% among adults and 10% among youth. Maximal leg extension among Inuit has declined even further, averaging 38% among adults and 27% among youth from 1970 to 1990. Inuit men demonstrate greater grip strength and lower leg strength than Russian indigenous men, whereas Inuit women demonstrate greater leg strength. Conclusions: Further research is needed to better understand physical fitness among indigenous peoples and the potential for improving health and reducing chronic disease risk for indigenous peoples through physical fitness.
The authors are with the College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.