In-situ testing of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) among primary school children

CRF is independently associated with health and academic attainment in childhood and adolescence. Yet overweight/obesity remain the focus in public health policy with the surveillance of BMI and CRF over a one-year period and considering school deprivation levels is limited. Previous research has reported the validity and reliability of a number of tests of children’s fitness, however scalability has received little attention.

This research was conducted in partnership with Premier Sport.

The purpose of this investigation was to:
1. Test the feasibility of delivering CRF testing in a primary school environment,
2. Investigate the BMI and cardiorespiratory fitness in primary school pupils in North West England over a one-year period
3.Examine the impact of school deprivation levels upon CRF and BMI.

A systematic review to assess the scalability of field-based fitness tests of CRF among schoolchildren to identify the most scalable measure. In-situ testing of CRF(20 meter shuttle test) and BMI was undertaken in 13 schools in North West England. Children were recruited through schools’ involvement with the investigation, and schools were themselves recruited via National Teaching Schools in the local area and existing links with Premier Sport.

Our systematic review indicated that the 5-min run test did not meet accepted criteria for reliability, whilst the 6-min walk test failed to meet the criteria for validity. However, of all sufficiently valid and reliable tests of children’s fitness, the 20-m shuttle run test was identified as the most scalable.

The in-situ testing found that both BMI and CRF varied over the period of one year, including the school term and summer recess, in primary school children aged 9-10 years. Although CRF significantly increased throughout the school year, CRF decreased back to baseline during the summer recess. This effect was influenced by school deprivation levels and pupils from the most deprived areas saw significantly greater reductions in CRF compared with pupils from affluent areas.

These results highlight a need for public health interventions aimed at increasing children’s PA levels, particularly vigorous PA, to be targeted towards the summer holiday period.

The peer-reviewed systematic review manuscript can be found here

The in-situ testing pre-print  and peer-reviewed manuscripts are also available.