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A systematic review of literature was conducted to examine the association between changes in health-related fitness (e.g., aerobic capacity and muscular strength/endurance) and chronic disease risk factors in overweight and/or obese youth. Studies published from 2000–2010 were included if the physical activity intervention was a randomized controlled trial and reported changes in fitness and health outcomes by direction and significance (p < .05) of the effect. Aerobic capacity improved in 91% and muscular fitness improved in 82% of measures reported. Nearly all studies (32 of 33) reported improvement in at least one fitness test. Changes in outcomes related to adiposity, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic, and mental/emotional health improved in 60%, 32%, 53%, 41%, and 33% of comparisons studied, respectively. In conclusion, overweight and obese youth can improve physical fitness across a variety of test measures. When fitness improves, beneficial health effects are observed in some, but not all chronic disease risk factors.
Millard-Stafford is with the Dept of Applied Physiology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA. Becasen is with the Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Beets is with the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Nihiser and Lee are with the Division of Population Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Fulton is with the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.