Physical activity is an important part of childhood. It offers children a way to stay healthy and learn long-term good habits that they can take into adulthood. However, some children are not exercising or staying active as long as they should. Therefore, it is important to assess their fitness level to act accordingly. Children aged 6 through 12 for example, are just starting to grow and have not yet undergone significant hormonal changes. Therefore, fitness levels should be measured accordingly.
The first thing to measure is their stamina/endurance. Kids at this age need daily activity, roughly one hour od moderate and vigorous exercise. Although some days can be taken off, a good way to measure a child’s fitness level is to see if they can handle one hour of vigorous exercise. A game of soccer or touch football would be a great way to incorporate a fun means of assessment. (Bushman)
Another thing to measure is length of time inactive. Children should not be inactive for more than two hours at a time. If a child is at home sitting on the sofa for four hours each day, this can spell trouble for their wellbeing. They need to stay active because it can provide them a sound basis as they age and mature.
Another way to measure fitness level is body fat and muscle. A higher body fat percentage does not necessarily mean the person is not fit, nor does a higher muscle percentage mean a person is more fit. However, these things do have the tendency to correlate.
. . . given BMI, greater physical activity was associated with lower average body fat percentage (for a BMI of 22.5 — 24.99 kg/m2: 2.0 (95% CI 1.8 to 2.2), percentage points lower body fat in men and 1.8 (95% CI 1.6 to 2.0) percentage points lower body fat in women, comparing â‰¥100 excess MET-hours per week with <5 excess MET-hours/week). (Bradbury, et al. e011843)
An example of a child with a low fitness level is Gaten aged 9. Although this is a hypothetical situation, such examples help clarify what is needed to assess fitness levels. Gaten has a body fat percentage of 29. He demonstrates limited strength as shown through a strength test at the monkey bars where he was asked to hold his weight by hanging on to the bar while his feet did not touch the ground. He could not do it and fell almost instantly.
Gaten was asked to play a game of tag with his father for 15 minutes. He ran and only lasted for five minutes before giving up and sitting on the grass in defeat. When his father urged him to keep running, he simply walked off. The next day he spent most of the afternoon watching TV and eating snacks. His mother stated he does this four times a week.
Although Gaten is a hypothetical child, he represents many children in the United States. Obesity trends have increased among children in the last decade. This means more and more children are adopting unhealthy habits that could lead to morbid obesity down the line. Such habits are increased TV watching, increased time on the computer, increased snacking, decreased physical activity, and decreased time spent outdoors. (Bushman)
Speaking of outdoors, children that spend the majority of their time indoors can also signify lower fitness levels. (Bushman) The outdoors offers children space to run and play, and exposure to sunlight, enabling vitamin D synthesis. These are just a few things that can be used to determine a child’s fitness level. Especially at the age range of 6 through 12.
Bradbury, Kathryn E., et al. “Association between physical activity and body fat percentage, with adjustment for BMI: a large cross-sectional analysis of UK Biobank.” BMJ Open, vol. 7, no. 3, 2017, p. e011843.
Bushman, Barbara A. Complete Guide to Fitness & Health. Human Kinetics, 2011.