There is evidence that fitness has been declining and fatness increasing in Australian schoolchildren over the last generation. This study reproduced the methods of a national survey of Australian schoolchildren conducted in 1985. Anthropometric and performance tests were administered to 1,463 10- and ll-year-old South Australians. Compared to the 1985 sample, the 1997 children were heavier (by 1.4−2.9 kg), showed greater weight for height (by 0.13−0.30 kg · m−2.85), and were slower over 1.6 km (by 38−48.5 s). Furthermore, the distribution of values was markedly more skewed in the 1997 data. While there was little difference between the fittest and leanest quartiles in 1997 and their 1985 counterparts, the least fit and fattest quartiles were markedly worse in 1997. This suggests that the decline in fitness of Australian schoolchildren is not homogeneous and that interventions should target groups where the decline is most marked.
The authors are with the School of Physical Education, Exercise and Sports Studies at the University of South Australia, Underdale, South Australia 5032.