The purpose of this article is to clarify the scientific basis of physical fitness assessment in children and to review the European efforts to develop a EUROFIT fitness test battery for the youth in the countries of the Council of Europe. The development of EUROFIT is based on the efforts made in the United States in the 1950s and in Europe in the 1980s. Physical fitness measurement is not identical to physiological measurement: The EUROFIT tests are aimed at measuring abilities rather than skills. Correlations between physical fitness tests and physiological laboratory tests show varying results and, therefore, need to be continued. Reliability of fitness tests needs to be continually studied. Because of the multipurposes of physical fitness testing, EUROFIT norm- and criterion-referenced scales for EUROFIT have to be developed. Examples of scaling methods are given. Implementation of the EUROFIT fitness tests for educational purposes is urgently needed.
Han C.G. Kemper and Willem Van Mechelen
Maarten Stiggelbout, Marijke Hopman-Rock, and Willem van Mechelen
This study reports entry correlates and motivations of older adults participating in organized exercise programs in the Netherlands, as determined in a descriptive explorative study (N = 2,350, response rate 86%). Participants were community-dwelling older adults (50+ years) who enrolled and started in 10 different exercise programs. Entry features were analyzed for differences in age, sex, marital status, education, living situation, body-mass index, lifestyle, and health status. Motivations for entering an exercise program were determined using homogeneity analyses. More Exercise for Seniors (MBvO) attracted relatively older seniors, whereas organized sports mainly attracted younger ones. Walking, MBvO, and gymnastics attracted more women, whereas skating and table tennis were reported to attract more male participants. Badminton and cycling attracted relatively higher educated participants, whereas MBvO attracted relatively lower educated participants. Three distinct motivational constructs were found: relax and enjoy, care and cure, and competition. Public health and recruitment implications of these findings are discussed.
Jannique G.Z. van Uffelen, Marijke J.M. Chinapaw, Marijke Hopman-Rock, and Willem van Mechelen
This study examined the feasibility and effect on aerobic fitness of a 1-yr, twice-weekly, group-based moderate-intensity walking program (MI-WP, n = 77) compared with a low-intensity activity program (LI-AP, n = 75) for community-dwelling older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Thirty participants did not start a program; median attendance in the other 122 participants was 71%. Small but significant associations were observed between attendance and memory in the MI-WP and general cognition in the LI-AP. Associations were no longer significant when both groups were analyzed together. Intensity, assessed using percentage of heart-rate reserve and the Borg scale, equaled intended intensity for both programs. Aerobic fitness improved significantly in participants in the MI-WP. In conclusion, cognition was not clearly associated with attendance in the 62 participants starting the MI-WP, and average attendance was good. The intensity was feasible for participants who continued the MI-WP. The findings support the proposal that regular moderate-intensity walking improves aerobic fitness in adults with MCI.
Julian D. Pillay, Tracy L. Kolbe-Alexander, Karin I. Proper, Willem van Mechelen, and Estelle V. Lambert
Brisk walking is recommended as a form of health-enhancing physical activity. This study determines the steps/minute rate corresponding to self-paced brisk walking (SPBW); a predicted steps/minute rate for moderate physical activity (MPA) and a comparison of the 2 findings.
A convenience sample (N = 58: 34 men, 24 women, 31.7 ± 7.7yrs), wearing pedometers and a heart rate (HR) monitor, performed SPBW for 10 minutes and 5 indoor sessions, regulated by a metronome (ranging from 60–120 steps/minute). Using steps/minute and HR data of the trials, a steps/minute rate for MPA was predicted. Adjustments were subsequently made for aerobic fitness (using maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) estimates), age, and sex as possible contributors to stepping rate differences.
Average steps/minute rate for SPBW was 118 ± 9 (116 ± 9; 121 ± 8 for men/women, respectively; P = .022); predicted steps/minute rate for MPA was 122 ± 37 (127 ± 36; 116 ± 39 for men/women, respectively; P < .99) and was similar to steps/minute rate of SPBW (P = .452), even after adjusting for age, sex, and aerobic fitness.
Steps/minute rates of SPBW correlates closely with targeted HR for MPA, independent of aerobic fitness; predicted steps/minute rate for MPA relates closely to steps/minute rates of SPBW. Findings support current PA messages that use the term brisk walking as a reference for MPA.
Maarten Stiggelbout, Marijke Hopman-Rock, Erwin Tak, Lilian Lechner, and Willem van Mechelen
This study examines dropout incidence, moment of dropout, and switching behavior in organized exercise programs for seniors in the Netherlands, as determined in a prospective cohort study (with baseline measurements at the start of the exercise program and follow-up after 6 months; N = 1,725, response rate 73%). Participants were community-living individuals 50+ who participated in different forms of organized exercise programs. The average dropout incidence was 0.15 per 6 months, which is lower than that for the general population. The dropout incidence and the timing of dropout differed substantially between the exercise programs. In total, 31% of people who dropped out of one type of exercise program switched to another type of exercise. The type of program and exercise had a strong effect on differences in this switching behavior. It is recommended that switching behavior be monitored in future studies.
Han C.G. Kemper, Jos W.R. Twisk, and Willem van Mechelen
In the Amsterdam Growth And Health Longitudinal Study (AGAHLS), a group of approximately 650 12- to 14-year-old boys and girls was followed in their growth, and development of their health their lifestyle including diet, physical activity and smoking. One of the main interests was the change in their aerobic fitness. From 12 to 36 years of age in total, eight repeated measurements were performed to measure peak oxygen uptake (peak VO2). In this study the data of peak VO2 are revisited and extended: We made use of all collected data as a mixed longitudinal design including cross-sectionally measured subjects as well as longitudinally measured subjects. This led to the availability of 1,194 boys and 1356 girls. With generalized estimating equations (GEE) the longitudinal changes with chronological age and differences between boys and girls were analyzed. Teenage boys and girls increased their peak VO2 (ml/min) significantly (p < .001) until age 14 in girls and until age 17 in boys. However peak VO2 relative to bodyweight (peak VO2/BW) had significantly (p < .001) decreased over the whole age range from 12 to 36 in both sexes. Vigorous physical activity (VPA) also showed a decrease and was significantly (p < .001) related with lower peak VO2/BW (Beta = 0.001). This relation was stronger in boys than in girls. Because at the start of AGAHLS no fast responding metabolic instruments were available, future longitudinal studies about aerobic fitness should include also measurement of VO2 kinetics.
Julian David Pillay, Tracy Lynn Kolbe-Alexander, Willem van Mechelen, and Estelle Victoria Lambert
Pedometer-based recommendations for accumulating steps/d largely focus on volume, with less emphasis on intensity and fitness/health outcomes. We aim to examine this relationship.
A convenience sample (N = 70, 35 men, 32 ± 8yrs) wore a pedometer (4 days). The pedometer classified steps as “aerobic” (≥ 60 steps/minute, minimum duration of 1 minute) or “non-aerobic” (< 60 steps/minute and/or < 1 minute). Estimated maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), derived from a 12-minute submaximal step-test, and health outcomes: blood pressure (BP), body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat (%BF), and waist circumference (WC) were correlated with pedometer data. Participants were grouped according to number and intensity of steps: LOW (< 5000 steps/d), HIGH-LOW (≥ 5000 steps/d, no aerobic steps), HIGH-HIGH (≥ 5000 steps/d, including some aerobic steps). Analyses of covariance, adjusting for age, gender, and total steps/d were used to compare groups.
Average steps/d was 6520 ± 2306. Total steps/d and total time spent accumulating “aerobic” steps (minutes/day) were inversely associated with %BF, BMI, WC, and systolic BP (P < .05). After adjusting for gender and total steps/d, %BF was different between all 3 groups, VO2max was different between the LOW and HIGH-HIGH groups, WC was lower in the HIGH-HIGH versus the other 2 groups (P < .03, respectively).
Intensity seems an important factor to consider in steps/d cut-points.
Jennifer K. Coffeng, Esther M. van Sluijs, Ingrid J.M. Hendriksen, Willem van Mechelen, and Cécile R.L. Boot
Research is needed to better understand the associations between during-work and after-work-hours physical activity and relaxation and need for recovery (NFR), so a study of these variables in office workers at a financial service provider was undertaken.
Self-reported baseline data of 412 employees (mean age = 41.3 y; 39.6% women) were used. Linear regression analyses were performed to test associations of physical activity, relaxation, detachment, and breaks at work with NFR.
A lower NFR was significantly positively associated with standing, stair climbing, active lunch break, relaxation at work, detachment at work, physical detachment at work, relaxation at home, and detachment at home. In the multiple model, a lower NFR was independently positively associated with frequency of stair climbing, minutes spent in leisure activities, detachment at work, physical detachment at work, and relaxation and detachment at home (P < .05). Significant effect modification indicated that the positive association between relaxation at home and NFR was stronger with high job demands.
Although prospective evidence is necessary to confirm the causal relationships, our findings suggest that engaging in stair climbing, leisure activities, (physical) detachment at work, relaxation and detachment after work is associated with a lower NFR. For future work site health promotion initiatives, interventions might be targeted at improving physical activity and relaxation.
Hidde P. van der Ploeg, Kitty R.M. Streppel, Allard J. van der Beek, Luc H.V. van der Woude, Miriam Vollenbroek-Hutten, and Willem van Mechelen
The objective was to determine the test-retest reliability and criterion validity of the Physical Activity Scale for Individuals with Physical Disabilities (PASIPD).
Forty-five non-wheelchair dependent subjects were recruited from three Dutch rehabilitation centers. Subjects’ diagnoses were: stroke, spinal cord injury, whiplash, and neurological-, orthopedic- or back disorders. The PASIPD is a 7-d recall physical activity questionnaire that was completed twice, 1 wk apart. During this week, physical activity was also measured with an Actigraph accelerometer.
The test-retest reliability Spearman correlation of the PASIPD was 0.77. The criterion validity Spearman correlation was 0.30 when compared to the accelerometer.
The PASIPD had test-retest reliability and criterion validity that is comparable to well established self-report physical activity questionnaires from the general population.
Doeschka A. Ferro, Jan Berend Deijen, Lando L. Koppes, Willem van Mechelen, Jos W. Twisk, and Madeleine L. Drent
Physical activity and fitness in adolescence may improve cognition in adulthood by increasing insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I).
As part of the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study, following subjects from age 13 to 42 years, physical activity and fitness of 303 subjects were assessed annually between the ages 13 to 16. At mean age 36, physical activity, fitness and IGF-I were measured. At mean age 42, IGF-I and cognitive factors (ie, executive functioning and visual-spatial memory) were measured. The linear regression of physical activity and fitness in adolescence and IGF-I in adulthood on cognitive scores in adulthood was investigated.
A significant association was found in males between physical activity in adolescence and executive function in adulthood (Spatial Working Memory Between Errors: β = –.18, B = –.13, 95% CI = –.259 to –.010; Spatial Working Memory Strategy: β = –.20, B = –.08, 95% CI = –.147 to –.014). No association between physical activity or fitness in adolescence and cognitive function in adulthood was found in females, nor any intermediate role for IGF-I in either sex.
The results suggest a stimulating effect of adolescent physical activity in males on executive functions in adulthood, emphasizing the importance of an active lifestyle among adolescent males.