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Ross Tucker, Vincent O. Onywera and Jordan Santos-Concejero

Purpose:

To investigate the ethnicity of Kenya’s most successful international runners, tracking their evolution over the period of their international emergence and current dominance.

Methods:

The authors analyzed male track distance events from 800m upwards from all the major global athletics championships from 1964 to 2013, and the annual Top-25 world marathon performances since 1990.

Results:

The percentage of top-25 marathon performances and medals won by Kenyan and Kalenjin runners have increased over time with Nandi subtribe outperforming the rest of the world outside Africa (r > .70, large effect). However, Europe, North America, Oceania, Asia, and South America decreased over time in top marathon performances and track medals won (r > .70, large effect). The tribe and subtribe distribution was different in the marathon than in the track: Maasais were more likely to feature in medals won in shorter track events than in the top 25 of the world marathon rankings (risk ratio [RR] = 9.67, very large effect). This was also the case for Marakwets (RR = 6.44, very large effect) and Pokots (RR = 4.83, large effect). On the other hand, Keiyos, Kikuyus, Kipsigis, Sabaots, and Tugens were more likely to succeed in the marathon than in shorter track events (RR > 2.0, moderate effect).

Conclusion:

These data emphasize that the previously documented emergence of African distance runners is primarily a Kenyan phenomenon, driven by the Kalenjin tribe and in particular the Nandi subtribe. This supports the complex interaction between genotype, phenotype, and socioeconomic factors driving the remarkable dominance of Kenyan distance runners.

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Karen Croteau, Grant Schofield, George Towle and Vijiayarani Suresh

Background:

It is speculated that rural Kenyan children are more physically active than those in developed countries. The purpose of this study was to examine pedometer-measured physical activity levels of western Kenyan youth.

Methods:

Participants in this study were children in Levels 3 and 5 who attended a private primary school. The sample (n = 72) consisted of 43 girls and 29 boys (average age = 9.8 ± 1.1, range = 8−12 years). Age, gender, tribe, and height and weight measures were collected. Weight status category was determined according to CDC guidelines. Participants wore a sealed Yamax pedometer for 4 weekdays during the measurement period. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and 2-way ANOVA (age × gender).

Results:

The total sample averaged 14558 ± 3993 daily steps. There was no significant effect for age [F(4,68) = 1.682, P = .102] nor significant age × gender interaction [F(4,68)=1.956, P = .117]. There was a significant effect for gender [F(1,68) = 4.791, P = .033], with boys (16262 ± 4698) significantly more active than girls (13463 ± 3051).

Conclusions:

The observed daily steps are higher than those observed in the U.S., similar to samples in other developed countries, but lower than Amish youth.

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V.O. Onywera, F.K. Kiplamai, P.J. Tuitoek, M.K. Boit and Y.P. Pitsiladis

The food and macronutrient intake of elite Kenyan runners was compared to recommendations for endurance athletes. Estimated energy intake (EI: 2987 ± 293 kcal; mean ± standard deviation) was lower than energy expenditure (EE: 3605 ± 119 kcal; P < 0.001) and body mass (BM: 58.9 ± 2.7 kg vs. 58.3 ± 2.6 kg; P < 0.001) was reduced over the 7-d intense training period. Diet was high in carbohydrate (76.5%, 10.4 g/kg BM per day) and low in fat (13.4%). Protein intake (10.1%; 1.3 g/kg BM per day) matched recommendations for protein intake. Fluid intake was modest and mainly in the form of water (1113 ± 269 mL; 0.34 ± 0.16 mL/kcal) and tea (1243 ± 348 mL). Although the diet met most recommendations for endurance athletes for macronutrient intake, it remains to be determined if modifying energy balance and fluid intake will enhance the performance of elite Kenyan runners.

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Robert M. Ojiambo, Chris Easton, Jose A. Casajús, Kenn Konstabel, John J. Reilly and Yannis Pitsiladis

Background:

Urbanization affects lifestyles in the developing world but no studies have assessed the impact on objectively measured physical activity in children and adolescents from sub-Saharan Africa.

Purpose:

To compare objectively measured habitual physical activity, sedentary time, and indices of adiposity in adolescents from rural and urban areas of Kenya.

Methods:

Physical activity and sedentary time were assessed by accelerometry for 5 consecutive days in 97 (50 female and 47 male) rural and 103 (52 female and 51 male) urban adolescents (mean age 13 ± 1 years). Body Mass Index (BMI) and BMI z-scores were used to assess adiposity.

Results:

Rural males spent more time in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) compared with urban males (68 ± 22 vs. 50 ± 17 min, respectively; P < .001). Similarly, Rural females spent more time in MVPA compared with urban females (62 ± 20 vs. 37 ± 20 min, respectively; P < .001). Furthermore, there were significant differences in daily sedentary time between rural and urban subjects. Residence (rural vs. urban) significantly (P < .001) influenced BMI z-score (R 2 = .46).

Conclusion:

Rural Kenyan adolescents are significantly more physically active (and less sedentary) and have lower indices of adiposity compared with urban adolescents and this is a likely refection of the impact of urbanization on lifestyle in Kenya.

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Vincent O. Onywera, Stella K. Muthuri, Sylvester Hayker, Lucy-Joy M. Wachira, Florence Kyallo, Robert O. Mang’eni, Peter Bukhala and Caleb Mireri

Background:

Kenya’s 2016 report card aimed to highlight the health and well-being of Kenyan children and youth using the best available evidence on the physical activity of Kenyan children and youth. The report pointed at areas where Kenya was succeeding and areas where more action is required.

Methods:

Inclusive analyses of available data sources on the core indicators related to physical activity and body weights of Kenyan children and youth (5 to 17 years) were conducted. These were assigned grades based on a set of specific criteria.

Results:

Results show that Active Play, Active Transportation, Overweight and Obesity, and Sedentary Behavior were favorable with a grade of B. Overall Physical Activity, Organized Sport Participation, and School (infrastructure, policies, and programs) each received a grade of C, while Family and Peers, Government and Nongovernment organizations, as well as the Community and the Built Environment were assigned grade D.

Conclusions:

Over 72% of Kenyan children and youth use active transportation to and from school and in their daily lives. Although majority of the children and youth have normal body weight, there is need to ensure that they meet and maintain the physical activity levels recommended by the World Health Organization. More needs to be done especially in relation to the governmental and nongovernmental organizations, organized sports participation, as well as involvement of family and peers in promoting healthy active lifestyles among Kenyan children and youth. More representative data for all indicators are required in Kenya.

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Lucy-Joy M. Wachira, Stella K. Muthuri, Mark S. Tremblay and Vincent O. Onywera

Background:

The report card presents available evidence on the physical activity (PA) and body weight status of Kenyan children and youth. It highlights areas where Kenya is succeeding and those in which more action is needed.

Methods:

Comprehensive review and analysis of available data on core indicators for Kenyan children and youth 5−17 years were conducted. The grading system used was based on a set of specific criteria and existing grading schemes from similar report cards in other countries.

Results:

Of the 10 core indicators discussed, body composition was favorable (grade B) while overall PA levels, organized sport participation, and active play were assigned grades of C. Active transportation and sedentary behaviors were also favorable (grade B). Family/peers, school, governmental and nongovernmental strategies were graded C.

Conclusions:

The majority of Kenyan children and youth have healthy body composition levels and acceptable sedentary time, but are not doing as well in attaining the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation on PA. Although Kenya seems to be doing well in most indicators compared with some developed countries, there is a need for action to address existing trends toward unhealthy lifestyles. More robust and representative data for all indicators are required.

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Randall L. Wilber and Yannis P. Pitsiladis

Since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have dominated the middle- and longdistance events in athletics and have exhibited comparable dominance in international cross-country and roadracing competition. Several factors have been proposed to explain the extraordinary success of the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, including (1) genetic predisposition, (2) development of a high maximal oxygen uptake as a result of extensive walking and running at an early age, (3) relatively high hemoglobin and hematocrit, (4) development of good metabolic “economy/efficiency” based on somatotype and lower limb characteristics, (5) favorable skeletal-muscle-fiber composition and oxidative enzyme profile, (6) traditional Kenyan/Ethiopian diet, (7) living and training at altitude, and (8) motivation to achieve economic success. Some of these factors have been examined objectively in the laboratory and field, whereas others have been evaluated from an observational perspective. The purpose of this article is to present the current data relative to factors that potentially contribute to the unprecedented success of Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners, including recent studies that examined potential links between Kenyan and Ethiopian genotype characteristics and elite running performance. In general, it appears that Kenyan and Ethiopian distance-running success is not based on a unique genetic or physiological characteristic. Rather, it appears to be the result of favorable somatotypical characteristics lending to exceptional biomechanical and metabolic economy/efficiency; chronic exposure to altitude in combination with moderate-volume, high-intensity training (live high + train high), and a strong psychological motivation to succeed athletically for the purpose of economic and social advancement.

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Marlene A. Dixon and Per G. Svensson

including Bolivia, Cambodia, Kenya, Laos, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda ( Battilana & Dorado, 2010 ; Gupta, Beninger, & Ganesh, 2015 ; MacLean & Brass, 2015 ; Marchant, 2017 ; Panum et al., 2018 ; Smith & Besharov, 2019 ). The broader field of international development and humanitarian work is

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Vincent Ochieng Onywera, Kristi B. Adamo, Andrew W. Sheel, Judith N. Waudo, Michael Kipsugut Boit and Mark S. Tremblay

Background:

Comparable data to examine the physical activity (PA) transition in African countries such as Kenya are lacking.

Methods:

We assessed PA levels from urban (UKEN) and rural (RKEN) environments to examine any evidence of a PA transition. Nine- to twelve-year-old children participated in the study: n = 96 and n = 73 children from UKEN and RKEN, respectively. Pedometers were used to estimate children’s daily step count. Parental perception regarding their child’s PA patterns was collected via questionnaire (n = 172).

Results:

RKEN children were more physically active than their UKEN counterparts with a mean average steps per day (± SE) of 14,700 ± 521 vs. 11,717 ± 561 (P < .0001) for RKEN vs. UKEN children respectively. 62.5% of the UKEN children spent 0 hours per week playing screen games compared with 13.1% of UKEN children who spent more than 11 hours per week playing screen games. Seventy percent of UKEN and 34% of RKEN parents reported being more active during childhood than their children respectively.

Conclusions:

Results of this study are indicative of a PA transition in Kenya. Further research is needed to gather national data on the PA patterns of Kenyan children to minimize the likelihood of a public health problem due to physical inactivity.

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Stella K. Muthuri, Lucy-Joy M. Wachira, Vincent O. Onywera and Mark S. Tremblay

Background:

A physical activity transition to declining activity levels, even among children, now poses a serious public health concern because of its contribution to a rising prevalence of noncommunicable diseases. Childhood physical activity levels are associated with parental perceptions of the neighborhood; however, these relationships have not been explored in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The objective was to investigate relationships between parental perceptions of the neighborhood and physical activity indicators among Kenyan children.

Methods:

Data were collected from children 9 to 11 years old in Nairobi as part of the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and Environment. Child physical activity was assessed by accelerometry, and information on obtaining sufficient physical activity, active transport, and parental perceptions of the neighborhood collected using questionnaires.

Results:

Of 563 participating children, 45.7%, 12.6%, and 11.4% used active school transportation, met physical activity guidelines, and were sufficiently active, respectively. Parental perception of positive neighborhood social cohesion, positive environs and connectivity, and negative child safety concerns, were associated with child physical activity outcomes.

Conclusions:

Aspects of parental perceptions of the neighborhood were associated with child physical activity outcomes and should be further explored to appropriately inform policy and practice in curbing declining physical activity levels among children in SSA.