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Summary of key findings

Fitness of Canadian Children and Youth:  Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

Publication: Health Reports 2010:21(1)

Authors: Mark S. Tremblay, Margot Shields, Manon Laviolette, Cora L. Craig Ian Janssen and Sarah Connor Gorber

Data: 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

First results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey demonstrate a significant and meaningful deterioration in the fitness levels of children aged six to 19 between 1981 and 2009, regardless of sex or age.  

At the age of 12, Canadian boys and girls are now taller and heavier than they were in 1981, and their body composition is less healthy.

Also, the strength and flexibility of boys and girls has declined significantly since 1981.  Rates of childhood obesity and overweight have risen, and this is related to increased body fat, not greater muscularity.

The survey administered comparable tests for flexibility and muscular strength.  The results were compared with data from the 1981 Canadian Fitness Survey.  Results focused on boys and girls in the age group 15 to 19 because well established norms were available to assess fitness levels.

Among boys in this age group, the proportion classified as overweight or obese rose from 14% to 31% between 1981 and 2009.  Among girls, it increased from 14% to 25%.

Among boys, the proportion in the waist circumference category who were at increased risk of health problems, or high-risk, rose more than five-fold from less than 3% to 15%.   Among girls, this proportion tripled from 9% to 28%.

Compared with 1981, higher proportions of boys and girls in this age group were in the category of fair, or needs improvement, for both flexibility and muscular strength.

At the age of 8 to 10, 28% of boys and 23% of girls were unable to complete even one partial curl-up.  However, boys aged 15 to 19 excelled at this test, with 64% completing 25 partial curl-ups.  Girls in all three age groups tended to fall in the middle group, completing between one and 24 curl-ups.

Full article

For more information, contact Mark S. Tremblay (1-613-290-4904, 613-737-7600 ext. 4114;, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, Ottawa.