Secular Changes in Shuttle-Run Performance: A 23-Year Retrospective Comparison of 9- to 11-Year-Old Children

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Katharine E. Reed
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Darren E.R. Warburton
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Crystal L. Whitney
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Heather A. McKay
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Low physical fitness is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults and a higher incidence of CVD risk factors in children. Our aim was to compare the aerobic performance of Canadian children in 2004 with that of children measured 2 decades ago. We conducted a cross-sectional comparison of 2 data sets: (a) a 2004 cohort (n = 252) and (b) data from Leger’s 1981 cohort (n = 2,151). Performance was assessed using Leger’s 20 m Shuttle Run Test. First, we compared VO2max by cohort (in age and sex subgroups). Second, we used 1981 derived data, to re-create the original distribution curves, then calculated a 1981 equivalent percentile for each 2004 cohort child. We found that aerobic performance was lower at all ages in 2004 compared with 1981 (p < .01). Thus, the 50th percentile for fitness of children in 2004 was equivalent to that of children in the lowest 20% of fitness in 1981. We support the view that the performance of children on aerobic fitness tests is declining.

Reed, Warburton, and Whitney are with the School of Human Kinetics, and McKay is with the Departments of Family Practice and Orthopaedics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V5Z 1L8.

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