Health-related physical fitness, anthropometry and physical activity levels of Zimbabwean children aged 10-12 years old: the Zimbabwe Baseline Survey
The future of children is being threatened to a steadily increasing extent, not least by the implications of the global obesity epidemic and ever-decreasing general levels of physical activity. Although empirical evidence has demonstrated conclusively that physical activity has numerous benefits for the health of children, many children throughout the world do not engage in the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. While overall physical fitness constitutes a significant indicator of health. Anthropometric indices as indicators of body composition are also important issues to study in order to predict the health-related physical fitness of children. Regular assessments and evaluations of children in terms of these parameters are essential for making accurate assessments of their growth, development, and states of health. This study was conducted in order to determine the health-related physical fitness, anthropometric characteristics, and levels of physical activity of Zimbabwean children between the ages of 10 and 12 years. The research sample comprised a total of 809 children, of whom 356 were boys and 453 were girls. The mean age was 11.03 years. Anthropometric measurements were made in accordance with the standard procedures of the International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK). Measurements were made of body mass, stature, triceps, biceps, subscapular, and supraspinale skinfolds, and minimum waist and gluteal girths. Nine health-related physical fitness tests were used to assess the children according to the EUROFIT and Physical Best protocols. The physical fitness tests measured were: the sit and reach test to measure flexibility in centimetres, the standing broad jump to test leg power in centimetres, the flamingo balance test over a period of 1 minute, the handgrip strength test which measured strength in kilograms, the sit-up test to measure abdominal strength over a 30-second period, the bent-arm hang test to measure upper body strength in seconds, the 10x5-metre shuttle run test to measure speed and agility in seconds, the 50-metre sprint to measure speed in seconds, and the 1.5-mile run test to measure aerobic endurance, which was scored in minutes. Levels of physical activity were assessed through the administration of the PAQ-C questionnaire and scores were recorded in hours. The results of the study revealed that 14.8% of the children were either overweight or obese. A preponderance of underweight children was found to coexist with obesity, with 62.4% of the children classified as being thin. Grade 1 thinness was found among 5.9% of the children, while a further 5.9% exhibited grade 2 thinness. Significant gender differences (p≤0.05) were found for all of the anthropometric variables and indices, apart from waist girth. Significant gender differences (p≤0.05 and p≤0.001) were also found in the scores for the sit and reach, standing broad jump, flamingo balance, sit-up, bent-arm hang, 10x5-metre shuttle run, 50-meter sprint, and 1.5-mile run physical fitness tests. The boys outperformed the girls in all of the physical fitness tests, apart from the sit and reach and the flamingo balance tests. The levels of physical activity in which the children engaged each day were considered to be relatively high, as a large majority of 85.2 % walked to and from school. Both positive and negative correlations were found between measurements of body composition and scores for physical fitness tests. Measurements of body composition correlated strongly with one another (p<0.05). Strong positive correlations were found between BMI and scores for the standing broad jump, r=0.08, sit-up, r=0.01, 1.5-mile run, r=0.30, and the handgrip strength tests, r=0.26 right hand and r=0.24 left hand. Conversely, strong negative correlations were found between BMI and scores for the bent-arm hang test r=-0.15 and also between percentages of body fat and scores for the bent-arm hang test r=-0.49. Regular measurement of Zimbabwean children is to be encouraged, as doing so would provide the information which only regular cross-sectional and longitudinal research studies are able to provide concerning trends pertaining to overweight and obese children and adolescents, which is generally lacking in sub-Saharan Africa. The continued measurement of Zimbabwean children would also significantly increase the amount of information which is available pertaining to health-related physical fitness, anthropometric characteristics, and levels of physical activity. The acquisition of a proper understanding of childhood development in the Zimbabwean context is the surest means of securing the future of the population of the country.
- Health Sciences