Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Health Related Physical Fitness

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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brief statement/overall statement


Physical Fitness refers to an overall state of wellbeing and an ability to achieve daily physical demands. It is broken down into two categories, skill-related physical fitness and health-related physical fitness (Malina, 2001, p.162). Health-related physical fitness refers more specifically to the components of physical fitness that influence health status, including cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal fitness, body composition, and metabolic fitness (Warburton et al. 2006, p.804; Malina, 2001, p.163). Health-related physical fitness is strongly related to health status and outcomes (Warburton et al. 2006, p.801). It is a way of operationalizing and measuring a person’s health status (Malina, 2001, p.162).

Current Levels & Impact of Health-Related Physical Fitness

Health-related physical fitness levels among youth are in decline (Eather et al. 2011, p.1). This is likely due to increasing levels of sedentary behaviour. Independent of physical activity levels, sedentary behaviour has been linked to lowered health-related physical fitness indicators, such as poor body composition, and to increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases (Tremblay et al. 2011, abstract). High levels of health-related physical fitness are associated with numerous benefits to health status, both in the short term and long term. Youth with increased levels of health-related physical fitness have a decreased risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and some cancers (Eather et al. 2011, p.2). Having improved components of health-related physical fitness as a child and adolescent can also considerably impact health status as an adult. For example, youth with improved cardiovascular fitness levels and healthier body compositions are more likely to have healthier cardiovascular profiles as adults. There is also an inverse relationship between increases in muscular strength from childhood to adolescence and lifelong changes in adiposity. Lastly, there is a moderate relationship between good cardiovascular fitness and decreasing the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and arterial stiffness as adults (Ruiz et al. 2009, abstract). The benefits to health status that come from having improved components of health-related physical fitness during youth are indisputable, but it begs the question: what is the best method of improving youth’s health-related physical fitness?

Relationship between Health-Related Physical Fitness and Physical Activity

Physical activity is an essential variable influencing health-related physical fitness. Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles that increase energy expenditure beyond resting levels (Malina, 2001, p.162). Current thinking assumes that increases in physical activity levels will positively impact health related physical fitness and one’s health status (Malina, 2001 p.162). In adults, this thinking holds true: there is a strong, linear correlation between health status and physical activity (Warburton et al. 2006, abstract). However, in youth, the relationship, although significant, is only weak to moderate at best. Studies have shown that physical activity only accounts for a small amount of the variability among youth’s health related physical fitness (Malina, 2001, abstract; Katzmarzyk et al. 1998, abstract). A potential reason for this weak relationship is rooted in the changes associated with growth (in body size and composition), maturation (timing of growth spurts and sexual maturation) and development (behaviour) characteristic of this period of life. The occurrence and timing of these factors are different for each youth and therefore may skew results of health related physical fitness studies (Katzmarzyk et al. 1998, p.713-14; Kristensen et al, 2010, p.268). It should also be noted that children who are already habitually physically active will have much smaller gains in health-related fitness components than children who are inactive, which may also skew study results (Kristensen et al, 2010, p.274).

Increasing Health-Related Physical Fitness

Despite the weak relationship between physical activity and youth’s health related physical fitness, a lifestyle including regular physical activity should still be emphasized as the trends indicate the resulting improvements in components of health related physical fitness are still significant (Malina, 2001, abstract). The World Health Organization and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommend that youth between the ages of 5 and 17 should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity each day, and vigorous muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises three times per week (CSEP, 2012; WHO, 2010, p.18). These are the minimum physical activity requirements that will yield health benefits, but it is acknowledge that there is a dose-response relationship between physical activity and improved cardio-respiratory and metabolic health. The more physical activity completed, the greater the health benefits achieved (WHO, 2010, p.18; Warburton et al. 2006, p.806). Further, youth should also be encouraged to develop habits of regular physical activity in order to decrease their risk of contracting a chronic cardio-metabolic disease, in the short and long term as stated above (Eather et al, 2011, p.2; Ruiz et al. 2009, abstract). Other recommendations include encouraging whole families, especially parents/guardians, to partake in regular physical activity to increase social support and to create role models for the youth to look up to. It is thought that this will increase the success of interventions aimed at increasing youth’s physical fitness (Martin-Matillas, 2012, abstract). Lastly, as time spent being sedentary poses a risk to health and is associated with lower levels of health-related physical fitness, independent of physical activity levels, it is recommended that public health policy promote decreasing sedentary time to supplement it’s advocacy for increasing physical activity (Tremblay et al. 2011, p.16).


1. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP). (2012). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines: your plan to get active every day. Retrieved from:

2. Eather, N., Morgan, P.J. & Lubans, D.R. (2011). Improving health-related fitness in children: the fit-4-Fun randomized controlled trail study protocol. BioMed Central. 11, 902.

3. Katzmarzyk, P.T., Malina, R.M., Song, T.M.K. & Bouchard, C. (1998). Physical Activity and health-related fitness in youth: a multivariate analysis. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 30:5, 709-714.

4. Kristensen, P.L., Moeller, N.C., Korsholm, L., Wedderkopp, N., Froberg, K., Andersen, L.B. (2010). The association between aerobic fitness and physical activity in children and adolescents: the European youth heart study. European Journal of Applied Phyisology. 110:2, 267-75.

5. Malina, R.M. (2001). Physical activity and fitness: pathways from childhood to adulthood. American Journal of Human Biology. 13, 162-72.

6. Martin-Matillas, M., Ortega, F.B., Ruiz, J.R., Martinez-Gomez, D., Vicente-Rodriguez, G., Marcos, A., Beghin, L., Kafatos, A., Gonzalez-Gross, M., Zaccaria, M., Moinar, D., De Henauw, S., Sjostrom, M., Moreno, L.A. & Castilloon, M.J. (2012). Active relatives and health-related physical fitness in European adolescents: the HELENA study. Journal of Sports Sciences. 30:13, 1329-35.

7. Ruiz, J.R., Castro-Pinero, J., Artero, E.G., Ortega, F.B., Sjostrom, M., Suni, J., Castillo, M.J. (2009). Predictive Validity of health-related fitness in youth: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 43, 909-23.

8. Tremblay, M.S., LeBlanc, A.G., Kho, M.E., Saunders, T.J., Larouche, R., Colley, R.C., Goldfield, G., and Gorber S.C. (2011). Systematic review of sedentary behaviour and health indicators in school-aged children and youth. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity. 8:98, 1-22.

9. <reference /> Warburton, D.E.R, Nicol, C.W., Bredin, S.S.D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 174:6, 801-09.

10. World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Retrieved from: