Aspects of fitness and physical activity patterns in Edinburgh school children

Blackwood, Susan Kim (1997). Aspects of fitness and physical activity patterns in Edinburgh school children. PhD thesis The Open University.



There is growing concern that many children in Britain do not take sufficient exercise to benefit cardiovascular health. This is supported by extensive evidence advocating the importance of regular physical activity for lifelong health and well-being, and is of particular relevance in Scotland given it's notorious record of adult coronary heart disease death. This study examined aspects of fitness and physical activity in groups of Edinburgh school children, aged between 13 and 14 years. A three stage investigation was adopted:

Phase One: A repeated measures, same subject design was used to examine the reliability and validity of selected measures (20m shuttle run test, peak oxygen uptake (VO2 Peak), and anthropometric measures). Thirty three children (15 boys, 18 girls) performed each test on 3 separate days. Anthropometric measures showed strong reliability (r>0.94, n=33) whilst reliability for the treadmill test of VO2 peak and shuttle run performance was lower (r=0.89 and r=0.79 respectively). Multiple regression analysis yielded a new equation for predicting VO2 peak for children. This age specific prediction equation incorporated shuttle run performance in conjunction with skinfold thickness measures (Boys, R2=0.64 SEE=3.46; Girls, R2=0.79, SEE=2.81). Repeat testing was also recommended.

Phase Two: An evaluation of methods of heart rate data analysis to assess physical activity in children. Twenty eight children (14 boys, 14 girls) wore continuous heart rate monitors (polar Electro PE4000, Finland) over a period of 7 days (Monday to Sunday), mean duration 737 (+/-55) mins/day. A detailed 7 day self report activity diary was also completed. Variability of heart rate measures was high (R=0.10-0.30), and it was noted that using data for just 4 days or less resulted in considerable underestimation of total weekly activity levels (44-100% error). If activity levels are to be compared against current recommendations, researchers must endeavour to achieve weekly rather than daily estimates of activity. Evaluation of methods of heart rate data analysis showed good correlation between heart rate activity indices and reported seven day activity. For boys strongest correlation was achieved using the number of 5 minute periods with HR> 139 b.min-1 and the number of 5 minute periods with HR>50% heart rate reserve (r=0.80, n=14). Total activity time was similar for both males and females but girls engaged in fewer sustained bouts of activity (>5 minutes) and a better correlate with activity in females was achieved using the total number of elevated heart rates (total HR>50% heart rate reserve, r=0.64, n=14).

Phase Three: A cross sectional survey was conducted to investigate standards of aerobic fitness and patterns of physical activity in groups of Edinburgh school children. Height, weight, skinfold thickness, shuttle run performance and physical activity (assessed by heart rate monitoring and activity diary) were recorded in a sample of 91 children (44 Boys, 47 Girls). Overall, males performed significantly better on the shuttle run test (t=5.4, df=88, p<0.05), had higher predicted peak oxygen uptake (t=5.6, df=87, p<0.05), and engaged in more bouts of moderate to vigorous activity than females. Seventy percent of boys and 50% of girls fulfilled current physical activity guidelines. Most activities were school based (131 mins per week as compared to 85 mins per week of out of school activities). Activity tended to be sporadic with active days interspersed with inactive days (mean 3.2 +/-1.6 days per week). After school activities specifically targeting young girls should be promoted.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions