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Physical fitness levels among European adolescents: the HELENA study

Abstract

Objective To report sex- and age-specific physical fitness levels in European adolescents.

Methods A sample of 3428 adolescents (1845 girls) aged 12.5–17.49 years from 10 European cities in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece (an inland city and an island city), Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden was assessed in the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence study between 2006 and 2008. The authors assessed muscular fitness, speed/agility, flexibility and cardiorespiratory fitness using nine different fitness tests: handgrip, bent arm hang, standing long jump, Bosco jumps (squat jump, counter movement jump and Abalakov jump), 4×10-m shuttle run, back-saver sit and reach and 20-m shuttle run tests.

Results The authors derived sex- and age-specific normative values for physical fitness in the European adolescents using the LMS statistical method and expressed as tabulated percentiles from 10 to 100 and as smoothed centile curves (P5, P25, P50, P75 and P95). The figures showed greater physical fitness in the boys, except for the flexibility test, and a trend towards increased physical fitness in the boys as their age increased, whereas the fitness levels in the girls were more stable across ages.

Conclusions The normative values hereby provided will enable evaluation and correct interpretation of European adolescents' fitness status.

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