Fitness trend analysis in male Austrian middle and high school students from 1975 to 2010
Considerable changes in the social and built environment contributed to alterations in physical activity, which potentially affect physical fitness. Long-term data on various components of physical fitness with multiple assessments in similar cohorts, however, remains limited. The present study, therefore, examined secular trends in physical fitness between 1975 and 2010 in adolescents living in a rural region in Tyrol, Austria. Data consisted of records from a physical education (PE) teacher that included a total of 2998 cases of male adolescents between 11 and 18 years of age. Fitness assessments included sprint, longjump and an endurance run that were performed annually in 3 to 5 grades during regular PE classes. The results indicated three distinct eras during the observation period. There was an improvement in physical fitness until the mid to late 1980s with a subsequent decline until the mid 1990s and a final period of relatively consistent low physical fitness. Further, it was shown that aerobic fitness started to decline earlier and that the decline was more pronounced than the performance in anaerobic fitness tests. This is of particular concern due to the importance of aerobic fitness for general health and wellbeing. Accordingly, these results along with previous studies highlight the need to promote physical activities that contribute to an improvement of physical fitness in children and adolescents.
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