Aerobic Fitness and Physical Activity in Children

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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In Volume 1 of Pediatric Exercise Science (PES), a paper by Fenster et al. (25) investigated the relationship between peak oxygen uptake (peak V̇O2) and physical activity (PA) in 6- to 8-year-old children. They used both questionnaires and large-scale integrated activity monitors (LSIs) to estimate daily PA and determined peak V̇O2 using an incremental treadmill test to volitional exhaustion. They concluded that peak V̇O2 correlated well with PA as measured by LSIs but commented that questionnaire data were only weakly and nonsignificantly associated with LSI and peak V̇O2 data. Peak V̇O2 and PA are the most researched and reported variables in the 25-year history of PES. Yet, the assessment and interpretation of young people’s aerobic fitness and PA remain problematic and any meaningful relationship between them during childhood and adolescence is shrouded with controversy. The present paper uses Fenster et al.’s (25) report as an indicator of where we were 25 years ago, outlines how far we have advanced since then, and suggests future directions of research in the study of aerobic fitness and PA.

In the first volume of PES, Fenster et al. (25) investigated the relationship between 6- to 8-year-old children’s peak oxygen uptake (peak V̇O2) and physical activity (PA). Five boys and 13 girls participated in the study and their data were pooled for analysis. Peak V̇O2 was determined during an incremental treadmill test to voluntary exhaustion and PA was estimated using both questionnaires and large-scale integrated activity monitors (LSIs). On the basis of a significant interclass correlation coefficient of r = .59 between peak V̇O2 and the log of LSI average counts per hour Fenster et al. (25) concluded that “aerobic capacity, as measured by peak V̇O2 correlated well with physical activity as measured by LSI” (p.134).

They also commented that questionnaire data were only weakly and nonsignificantly associated with LSI and peak V̇O2 data. Young people’s peak V̇O2 and PA are the most researched and reported variables in the 25-year history of PES and yet the assessment and interpretation of peak V̇O2 and PA and any meaningful relationship between them during growth and maturation are still shrouded with controversy. The present paper uses Fenster et al.’s (25) work as an indicator of our understanding of young people’s peak V̇O2 and PA in 1989, briefly reviews what we know in 2013, and suggests future directions of research.

The author is with the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre, University of Exeter, UK.

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