|Year : 2014 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 95-99
Fitness levels in school going children of 8-14 years from Udupi
Kavitha Raja1, Saumen Gupta1, Shweta Bodhke2, N Girish3
1 JSS College of Physiotherapy, Mysore, Karnataka, India
2 RV College of Physiotherapy, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
3 Department of Physiotherapy, SOAHS, Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||19-May-2014|
JSS College of Physiotherapy, Ramanuja Road, Mysore 570 004, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: Childhood fitness is an emerging area of concern as prevalence of childhood obesity is rising. Indian studies, have identified decreased fitness levels and increased obesity in urban children. However, studies incorporating a comprehensive fitness evaluation are unavailable. In order to establish appropriate school fitness programs, baseline fitness levels in the target children is essential. Aims: The aim of this study is to evaluate health and performance related fitness levels of school going children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old. Settings and Design: Schools from Udupi Taluk, observational design. Materials and Methods: Fitness testing battery adapted from Presidential fitness challenge. Statistical Analysis Used: Descriptive statistics, parametric tests of comparison, and correlation were carried out using Pearson's correlation coefficient. Results: Children were divided into age groups consisting of 1 year age intervals. Reference values are guidelines given by President's challenge. Children who scored 25-32 points were considered as very fit; 17-24 as being adequately fit and 8-16 as unfit. Children from vernacular schools were more fit than those from English medium schools, with boys doing better (P = 0.01). Conclusions: From the results of this study, we can conclude that basic levels of health-related fitness are low among school children of Udupi Taluk, Karnataka.
Keywords: Health related fitness, physical inactivity, sedentary children
|How to cite this article:|
Raja K, Gupta S, Bodhke S, Girish N. Fitness levels in school going children of 8-14 years from Udupi. Int J Health Allied Sci 2014;3:95-9
|How to cite this URL:|
Raja K, Gupta S, Bodhke S, Girish N. Fitness levels in school going children of 8-14 years from Udupi. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Apr 9];3:95-9. Available from: http://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2014/3/2/95/132693
| Introduction|| |
Childhood fitness is an emerging area of public health concern the world over.  The prevalence of childhood obesity and morbidities associated with it are increasing. Some of the reasons attributed to this increase in obesity and decrease in fitness levels, are improved economic status and better lifestyle choices, increased academic demands, which decrease the time effectively spent in physical activity, and concerns of safety, which parents voice as reasons for disallowing physical activity. ,,,,,
On the flip side, there are children with poor nutritional levels leading to poor fitness levels. While these children are not prone to lifestyle diseases, they are also a cause for concern. Some of the reasons attributed to poor nutritional status are cultural beliefs concerning foods, poverty, and lack of awareness. 
Studies reported from India, have identified decreased fitness levels and increased obesity in urban children. However, studies incorporating a comprehensive fitness evaluation are unavailable. It has been established that the burden of ensuring exercise in children falls on the school.  In order to establish appropriate school fitness program, baseline fitness levels in the target children is essential. Hence, we undertook this study with the objectives as follows.
To evaluate health-related and performance related fitness levels of school going children between the ages of 8 and 14.
To compare the fitness levels of children from vernacular and English medium schools.
| Materials and methods|| |
Study design: Observational.
Setting: Schools from Udupi taluk, Karnataka.
Selection of participants
Schools were selected based on convenience. Complete enumeration (1049 children) was done of normal, healthy children between the ages of 8 and 14 years, subject to consent of the child, parents and school. Children were grouped as those attending vernacular government schools and those attending English language schools. The institutional research committee approved the study procedure.
Methods of measurement
Selection of tests
Fitness parameters used in studies involving children are varied. The President's challenge is a commonly used battery of tests.  Hence, we used the tests from President's challenge for health related fitness measures. Performance related measures test explosive strength of upper body and lower body as well as speed and agility. We used commonly used tests for explosive power and speed. The substitution of push-ups instead of pull-ups was done as it was found during our pilot study that most children were unable to perform the pull-ups. The normative values published by President's challenge were used to categorize the children into fitness categories.
All schools that offered primary to high school education following the Karnataka State Board curriculum were selected from Udupi. Of the schools approached, six schools consented to the study (4 Kannada medium and 2 English medium). Children who had any history of illness acute or chronic and those who were reluctant to participate, or were absent on the day of testing were excluded. Testing was done in the school playground. The child's age, height and weight were measured. The same sequence of testing was followed for all children. The test battery was as follows:
Health related parameters
- Full body flexibility, measured as sits and reaches distance - The child was made to sit with the lower limbs parallel and the knees straight. The child was asked to touch the toes with tips of the middle fingers. If the child was able to do this, the distance was marked as "0". If the child was unable to the distance between the tip of the middle finger and the great toe was measured in centimeters and represented as negative and the distance in cm. If the child reached beyond the toes the distance was marked as the distance in cm
- Number of sit-ups in a minute - The child lay supine with knees bent to 90° and the hips at 60° to enable to feet to rest plant grade on the floor. The child was then asked to perform complete sit-ups as many times as possible. Only those performed in full range were counted. Sit-ups done with pelvic tilting were not counted
- Number of push-ups in a minute - The child lay prone with hands placed parallel to the trunk flat on the floor. The child was asked to perform complete push-ups. The entire upper body from the waist was required to be out of contact with the floor in addition to fully extended elbows. Those not done in full range and compensation from the lower limbs were not counted
- Aerobic capacity - Aerobic capacity was measured as the distance run in 5 min. The child was asked to run as far as possible for a period of 5 min. If the child was unable to run, jogging and fast walking were allowed. The distance covered was measured in meters.
Performance related parameters
- Time taken to run 30 m - The child was instructed to run as fast as possible for a distance of 30 m and the time taken were measured in seconds
- Standing broad jump distance - he child was instructed to jump as far as possible from a standing point with feet together. The distance was measured in centimeters
- Standing vertical jump distance - The child was instructed to stand with one arm raised overhead. The point of the tip of the middle finger was marked. The child was then instructed to jump as high as possible. The distance from the initial point to the tip of the middle finger reached during the jump was measured in centimeters
- Medicine ball throws distance - The child was instructed to stand with feet apart, knees bent in a forward bent posture. The child was then instructed to grasp the medicine ball with both hands and throw it overhead and backwards using the thrust from the knees straightening, back straightening and the upper limbs. The distance was measured in meters. 
Distances were measured in centimeters or meters and time was taken in seconds or minutes. The best measure of three trials was considered except in the test of aerobic capacity (distance run in 5 min). Rest of 5 min was given between trials for the tests of sit-ups, push-ups and 30 m dash.
Secondary measures included socioeconomic status, physical activity, and age.
Children were categorized based on fitness as described above into percentages. Comparison between children attending vernacular and English medium schools was done by t-tests. Data analysis was done by SPSS version 10.
| Results|| |
Children were divided into age groups consisting of 1-year intervals. Values were computed for each gender. Values for each test for girls and boys are given in [Table 1], [Table 2]a, and [Table 3]a. Reference values according to norms of President's challenge are given in [Tables 2]b and [Table 3]b. Children who scored in the 75 th percentile or above were categorized as "good fitness", who were in the 50 th -74 th percentile as "average" and those who were below the 50 th percentile as "poor". Items for which norms were unavailable were classified as mean ± 2 standard deviation (SD)-average; mean >-2 SD as poor and mean <+2 SD as good fitness levels.
Scoring of overall fitness was done as follows: Children were given four points for each item that they scored "good" on; three points for items that they scored "average" on; two points for items that they scored "poor" on and one for items that they were unable to complete at all.
Children who scored 25-32 points were considered as very fit; 17-24 as being adequately fit and 8-16 as unfit.
[Table 4] shows the distribution of children according to their fitness levels from vernacular and English medium schools.
As could be inferred from [Table 5], children from vernacular schools were slightly more likely to be fit than those from English medium schools. When analyzed separately based on gender as shown in [Table 6]a and b, this trend was more evident among boys. Girls attending English medium schools on the other hand, fared better than their counterparts from vernacular schools.
|Table 4: Distribution of subjects based on gender and medium of instruction |
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|Table 5: Distribution of children based on fitness levels in English and vernacular schools |
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Comparison of children based on fitness levels between school streams showed that boys attending vernacular schools had better fitness (P = 0.01). However, girls of both streams were similar (P = 0.45).
| Discussion|| |
There are reported studies suggesting that childhood obesity and decreasing levels of fitness are on an alarming rise in India. Reasons attributed to this trend are increasing affluence, and academic competitiveness, which forces the child to devote very little time to physical activity. Some of the offshoots of decreased physical fitness in the growing years are early onset of diabetes, hypertension, childhood asthma etc., An unfit child is more likely to be an unfit adult.
This study which sampled children from semi-rural areas of south India did not show a similar trend. It was noted that the children were mostly ill nourished when compared with the CDC growth charts.  Hence, what we saw was poor fitness levels attributable in part to poor nutritional status. However, it is evident from the SDs that the children were mostly all of a similar body mass index (BMI). Therefore, it is possible that these values are what are normal for the sampled population. There were minor differences between the BMI of children attending vernacular and English medium schools with the English medium children recording a slightly higher BMI in all age groups and both genders. No major differences between the genders were noted. The majority of the children (92.3%) came from families with two children. This was true for both groups of children.
In health-related fitness measures, children of both genders performed below average. However, in the performance related measures, the study sample did as well as reference norms. This might indicate that lack of basic exercises incorporating flexibility, and endurance may be a cause. In most schools in Udupi, and in fact much of the country, physical education classes focus on out-dated exercises with no effort to modify based on the child's fitness levels or in fact no aspect of the exercises commonly performed achieve more than minimum levels of flexibility at best. Agility and endurance are seldom targeted.
The children in this study, performed well in activities requiring spurt muscle activity. Hence, it cannot be said that the children were undernourished or unhealthy.
Many girls in the older age groups refused to participate or did not complete all tests and had to be excluded. The reasons cited were often menstruation and shyness. Teachers also corroborated these excuses for lack of participation in physical activity. It has been established that physical fitness and participation in sporting activity is crucial to the child's psychological development as well as intellectual development. Several positive personality traits are learned on the sports field. A fit person exudes greater self-confidence, has more energy and is better able to perform under stress. Teachers and children need to be sensitized to these tenets. It is extremely important to design fitness programs for schools, tailored to age groups and baseline fitness characteristics that would ensure minimum physical fitness levels along with minimum academic levels in our schools.
One of the limitations of this study was that it did not include the elite schools in the areas due to lack of sanction from the administrations concerned. Reasons cited were that testing would interfere with school curriculum and that they did not allow research projects as a matter of policy. Another limitation was the sampling strategy that was used. A multistage cluster sample would have been a better representation of the population. However, due to lack of cooperation from the schools this could not be achieved. This lack of cooperation indicates a general lack of awareness of the need for childhood fitness. Although the CBSE curriculum includes the tests we used, in their physical education curriculum, the state board has no standard physical education curriculum.
| Conclusion|| |
From the results of this study, we can conclude that basic levels of health related fitness are low among school children of Udupi taluk, Karnataka.
| Implication|| |
It is necessary to increase awareness of physical activity among school teachers especially health related fitness. As a follow-up to the results obtained in this study, a fitness program has been designed and is being pilot tested for effectiveness in 2 schools sampled here.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]