The objective of this systematic review was to comprehensively study the criterion-related validity of the existing field-based fitness tests used in children and adolescents. The studies were scored according to the number of subjects, description of the study population and statistical analysis. Each study was classified as high, low and very low quality. Three levels of evidence were constructed: strong evidence, when consistent findings were observed in three or more high quality studies; moderate evidence, when consistent findings were observed in two high quality studies; and limited evidence when consistency of findings and/or the number of studies did not achieve the criteria for moderate. The results of 73 studies (50 of high quality) addressing the criterion-related validity of field-based fitness tests in children and adolescents indicate the following: that there is strong evidence indicating that the 20 m shuttle run test is a valid test to estimate cardiorespiratory fitness, that the hand-grip strength test is a valid measure of musculoskeletal fitness, that skin fold thickness and body mass index are good estimates of body composition, and that waist circumference is a valid measure to estimate central body fat. Moderate evidence was found that the 1-mile run/walk test is a valid test to estimate cardiorespiratory fitness. A large number of other field-based fitness tests presented limited evidence, mainly due to a limited number of studies (one for each test). The results of the present systematic review should be interpreted with caution due to the substantial lack of consistency in reporting and designing the existing validity studies.
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Funding This work was supported by the European Union within the framework of the Public Health Programme (ALPHA project, Ref: 2006120), the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, the Spanish Ministry of Education (EX-2007-1124; AP-2004-2745; and AP2005-4358) and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science-FEDER funds (Acciones Complementarias DEP2007-29933-E).
Competing interests none.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.