Field-Based Health-Related Physical Fitness Tests in Children and Adolescents

Physical fitness is a state of being that reflects a person’s ability to perform specific exercises or functions and is closely related to present and future health outcomes.

In a school context, tests are being used as institutional fitness assessment tools, educational tools to teach youth and their families about the importance of physical fitness, and as communication tools to guide individuals on attainable goals for maintaining fitness and health. A consortium of researchers of the Erasmus+ project (European Fitness Monitoring System – EUFITMOS), namely Adilson Marques, Duarte Henriques-Neto, Miguel Peralta, João Martins, Fernando Gomes, Stevo Popovic, Bojan Masanovic, Yolanda Demetriou, Annegret Schlund and Andreas Ihle, produced a systematic review to analyse the field-based health-related physical fitness tests in children and adolescents.

Several studies revealed a direct correlation between regular physical activity, higher level of physical fitness and better quality of life. Physical fitness is a multi-component construct and a biomarker of health. Worse physical fitness is related to vulnerability that can negatively affect human development, such as cognitive functioning, and predicts worse academic achievements. Thus, assessing physical fitness is important to monitor health in youth. Assessing physical fitness through specific and validated test protocols allows monitoring the biological and physiological adaptations achieved through natural development or training. Health-related physical fitness components include body composition measures (i.e., body mass index [BMI], waist circumference), cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), muscular fitness, speed, agility, balance, and coordination. These components have been consistently associated with indicators of obesity, cardiovascular health, metabolic health, bone health, and mental health.

The above mentioned systematic review was delivered to inform physical education, health professionals and entities about existing physical fitness batteries and field-tests that can be used in school settings. So far, no systematic review that provides a summary of all existing fitness test batteries for children and adolescents that can be carried out in the school setting under the specific circumstances of the school has been carried out. Therefore, this systematic review aimed to identify and summarise the existing field-based health-related physical fitness batteries that can be performed in children and adolescents to monitor and improve their health status. Among the 25 identified physical fitness batteries from European, American, Asian, and Oceanian countries, 87 physical fitness tests assessing the different physical fitness components were encountered. The advances in the physical fitness field-based assessment in school settings and health in youth resulted in the amplification of the number of existing batteries. While diversity allows choosing the battery that most fits the specific purpose and setting of the assessment, it somehow complicates the comparability of data from different contexts, countries, or regions.

In conclusion, considering the connection between physical fitness and health and the opportunity that the school setting provides to assess fitness in children and adolescents, the authors highlighted the need for standardisation and a consensus of physical fitness assessments in this specific setting. In the European Union, a unique and actualised European physical fitness battery would allow comparisons between European children and adolescents from different countries to contribute to adequate and specific education and public health policies in the future.