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James R. Morrow Jr. and Patty S. Freedson

This review summarizes the research relating physical activity to aerobic fitness among adolescents. A brief description of commonly used physical activity and aerobic fitness measures is presented, followed by an interpretation of the literature that suggests a small to moderate relationship between physical activity and aerobic fitness in this population (typical correlation of .16-17). Dose-response data are lacking, which makes it difficult to offer definitive conclusions concerning the amount of physical activity necessary to elicit change in aerobic capacity. Nevertheless, recommendations about the type, amount, and quality of physical activity for adolescents are presented. Recommendations are based on a summary of the research data on daily physical activity and aerobic fitness in adolescents. Further research is needed to investigate the association between habitual physical activity and aerobic fitness in adolescents where the a priori goal is to identify a threshold of daily physical activity necessary for an aerobic benefit associated with enhanced health.

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Neil Armstrong and Joanne R. Welsman

Over 60 years ago, Robinson published the first investigation of boys’ aerobic fitness; almost 50 years ago, Åstrand conducted his pioneering studies of both sexes. Twenty four percent of the papers published during the first 10 years of Pediatric Exercise Science (1989-98) involved the determination of peak V̇O2. Yet, the interpretation of aerobic fitness during childhood and adolescence is still shrouded with controversy. In this paper we review peak V̇O2 in relation to age, growth, maturation, and sex. We describe the increase in peak V̇O2 with age, challenge the traditional interpretation of peak V̇O2 during growth, demonstrate the independent contribution of maturation to peak V̇O2, and address the progressive divergence of boys’ and girls’ peak V̇O2, during childhood and adolescence.

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Anita Hurtig Wennlöf, Agneta Yngve and Michael Sjöström

Background:

Steadily declining physical activity, especially among children, and the possible adverse health outcomes such behavior could precede, is a general concern. We evaluated whether a presumed decrease in physical activity has been accompanied with a decrease in aerobic fitness of Swedish children.

Methods:

A maximum cycle ergometer test was performed in 935 children age 9 and 15 y, and the results were compared with previously reported data.

Results:

Estimated peak oxygen uptake (mL × min-1 × kg-1) in 9-y-old subjects was 37.3 in girls and 42.8 in boys; and in 15-y-olds, 40.4 in girls and 51.5 in boys. In the 9-y-olds, aerobic fitness remained lower in the current study compared to earlier data, but in the 15-y-olds the result did not differ from the 1952 data after adjustment for methodological differences.

Conclusion:

Our results suggest a change towards decreased aerobic fitness in 9-y-old, but not in 15-y-old, Swedish children during a 50-y time span.

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Xihe Zhu, Senlin Chen and James Parrott

This study examined adolescents’ interest in aerobic fitness testing and its relation to the test performances. Adolescents (N = 356) from three middle schools participated in the study. The participants took two aerobic fitness tests: the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) and One-Mile Run (1MR) with a two-day interval, and completed two interest scales immediately after each test. Test performances, interest, and body mass index data were collected. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, multivariate analysis of variance/covariance, and hierarchical regression analyses. Student situational and personal interests were low-to-moderate overall in both aerobic fitness tests. Boys reported significantly higher situational interest than girls, but there was no gender difference in personal interest. Personal interest was a significant predictor for PACER (b=.27) and 1MR (b=-.37). The predictability of situational interest to testing performances varied between PACER and 1MR. PACER and 1MR might have rendered distinct motivational stimuli that led to the varied predicting power of situational interest.

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Lauren B. Raine, Mark R. Scudder, Brian J. Saliba, Arthur F. Kramer and Charles Hillman

Background:

There is a growing trend of inactivity among children, which may not only result in poorer physical health but also poorer cognitive health. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between aerobic fitness and proactive and reactive cognitive control using a continuous performance task (CPT).

Methods:

Forty-eight 9- to 10-year-old children (n = 24 higher fit [HF] and n = 24 lower fit [LF]) performed an AX-CPT requiring them to respond to target cue-probe pairs (AX) or nontarget pairs (AY, BX, BY) under 2 different trial duration conditions, which modulated working memory demands.

Results:

Across trials and conditions, HF children had greater accuracy than LF children. For target trials, the long duration resulted in lower accuracy than the short duration. For nontarget trials, an interaction of duration and trial was observed, indicating that the long duration resulted in decreased BX and BY accuracy relative to the short duration. AY trials had greater accuracy during the long duration compared with the short duration.

Conclusions:

These data suggest that fitness may modulate cognitive control strategies during tasks requiring context updating and maintenance, key components of working memory and further support aerobic fitness as a marker of cognitive and brain health in children.

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James J. McClain, Gregory J. Welk, Michelle Ihmels and Jodee Schaben

Background:

The PACER test is a valid and reliable assessment of aerobic capacity in children. However, many schools lack adequate space to administer the test. This study compared the utility of the standard 20m PACER test with an alternative 15m PACER protocol in 5th and 8th grade students.

Methods:

A total of 171 students completed both PACER protocols in a counterbalanced design. Agreement between the two protocols was assessed with correlations, repeated-measures ANOVA, and classification agreement into the FITNESSGRAM ® healthy fitness zones.

Results:

The difference in estimated VO2max between the two tests was slightly larger for boys (5th grade, 1.32 ml/kg/min; 8th grade, 1.72 ml/kg/min) than girls (5th grade, 0.14 ml/kg/min; 8th grade, 1.11 ml/kg/min), but these differences are probably not of practical significance. Classification agreement was 88% for boys and 91% for girls.

Conclusions:

Collectively, the results suggest that the 15m and 20m PACER provide similar information about aerobic fitness in youth. The 20m test is recommended when possible, but the 15m provides a useful alternative for schools with smaller gymnasiums.

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Jennifer L. Etnier, Benjamin A. Sibley, Jeremy Pomeroy and James C. Kao

Research suggests that there are differences in response time (RespT) as a function of age but that aerobic fitness might have a facilitatory effect on RespT. This study was designed to examine this relationship while addressing methodological issues from past research. Men from 3 age groups completed speeded tasks, a physical activity questionnaire, and an aerobic-fitness test. Results indicated that age has a negative impact on RespT (specifically premotor time and movement time). The interaction of aerobic fitness by age was also a significant predictor of RespT (specifically movement time) such that aerobic fitness was positively related to speed of performance for older participants. It is concluded that aerobic fitness might serve a preservative function for speeded tasks in older adults.

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Jo Welsman and Neil Armstrong

Peak oxygen uptake (peak V ˙ O 2 ) is internationally recognized as the criterion measure of youth aerobic fitness, and laboratory-determined peak V ˙ O 2 data from children and adolescents have been available for over 80 years. However, throughout this period, the development of peak V ˙ O 2

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Alessandra de Carvalho Bastone, Eduardo Ferriolli, Claudine Patricia Teixeira, João Marcos Domingues Dias and Rosângela Corrêa Dias

Background:

Self-reported measures of decreased aerobic fitness and low physical activity are criteria of frailty. However, research assessing aerobic fitness and physical activity levels associated with frailty is limited. Therefore, the aims of this study were to objectively assess the aerobic fitness and the physical activity level of frail and nonfrail elderly, and to examine the association between frailty, aerobic fitness and habitual physical activity.

Methods:

This study included 26 elderly (66 to 86 years), randomly selected. The groups (frail/nonfrail) were age and sex paired. Peak oxygen consumption, maximal walking distance and speed were assessed during the incremental shuttle walk test (ISWT). Average daily time spent in sedentary, light, moderate and hard activity, counts, number of steps and energy expenditure were measured by accelerometry.

Results:

All variables measured by the ISWT and accelerometer differed significantly between the groups (P < .02). All aerobic fitness and physical activity variables were significantly associated with frailty, independent of the number of chronic health conditions (P < .05).

Conclusions:

Frailty is associated with low peak oxygen consumption and low physical activity level. These findings could guide future clinical trials designed to evaluate the efficacy of aerobic exercises in the prevention and treatment of frailty.

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Arthur F. Kramer, Sowon Hahn and Edward McAuley

The article provides a brief review of the literature on the relationship between aerobic Fitness and neurocognitive function, particularly as it relates to older adults. Cross-sectional studies provide strong support for the beneficial influence of fitness on neurocognitive function. The longitudinal or interventional literature, however, provides more equivocal support for this relationship. In discussing the literature, the authors introduce a new hypothesis, the executive control/fitness hypothesis, which suggests that selective neurocognitive benefits will be observed with improvements in aerobic fitness; that is, executive control processes that include planning, scheduling, task coordination, inhibition, and working memory will benefit from enhanced fitness. Preliminary evidence for this hypothesis is discussed.