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Jo Welsman and Neil Armstrong

In this paper, we draw on cross-sectional, treadmill-determined, peak oxygen uptake data, collected in our laboratory over a 20-year period, to examine whether traditional per body mass (ratio) scaling appropriately controls for body size differences in youth. From an examination of the work of pioneering scientists and the earliest studies of peak oxygen uptake, we show how ratio scaling appears to have no sound scientific or statistical rationale. Using simple methods based on correlation and regression, we demonstrate that the statistical relationships, which are assumed in ratio scaling, are not met in groups of similar aged young people. We also demonstrate how sample size and composition can influence relationships between body mass and peak oxygen uptake and show that mass exponents derived from log-linear regression effectively remove the effect of body mass. Indiscriminate use of ratio scaling to interpret young people’s fitness, to raise “Clinical Red Flags”, and to assess clinical populations concerns us greatly, as recommendations and conclusions based upon this method are likely to be spurious. We urge those involved with investigating youth fitness to reconsider how data are routinely scaled for body size.

Open access

Neil Armstrong and Jo Welsman

Purpose: To investigate peak oxygen uptake (V˙O2) in relation to sex, age, body mass, fat-free mass (FFM), maturity, and overweight status. Methods: Multiplicative, allometric models of 10- to 18-year-olds were founded on 1057 determinations of peak V˙O2 supported by anthropometry and estimates of maturity status. Results: Baseline models with body mass controlled for showed age to exert a positive effect on peak V˙O2, with negative estimates for age2, sex, and a sex-by-age interaction. Sex-specific models showed maturity status to have a positive effect on peak V˙O2 in addition to the effects of age and body mass. Introducing skinfold thicknesses to provide, with body mass, a surrogate for FFM explained maturity effects and yielded a significantly (P < .05) better statistical fit in all models compared with those based on FFM estimated from youth-specific skinfold equations. With girls only, the introduction of overweight, defined by body mass index, resulted in a small but significant (P < .05) negative effect, with an age-by-overweight status interaction. Conclusions: FFM has a powerful influence on peak V˙O2 in both sexes. Interpretation of the development of youth aerobic fitness and its application to health should reflect the sex- and maturity-associated variation in FFM.