European fitness landscape for children and adolescents: updated reference values, fitness maps and country rankings based on nearly 8 million test results from 34 countries gathered by the FitBack network
|Year of publication
|Article in Periodical
|Magazine / Source
|British Journal of Sports Medicine
|MU Faculty or unit
|physical fitness; physical endurance
|Objectives (1) To develop reference values for health-related fitness in European children and adolescents aged 6-18 years that are the foundation for the web-based, open-access and multilanguage fitness platform (FitBack); (2) to provide comparisons across European countries.Methods This study builds on a previous large fitness reference study in European youth by (1) widening the age demographic, (2) identifying the most recent and representative country-level data and (3) including national data from existing fitness surveillance and monitoring systems. We used the Assessing Levels of PHysical Activity and fitness at population level (ALPHA) test battery as it comprises tests with the highest test-retest reliability, criterion/construct validity and health-related predictive validity: the 20 m shuttle run (cardiorespiratory fitness); handgrip strength and standing long jump (muscular strength); and body height, body mass, body mass index and waist circumference (anthropometry). Percentile values were obtained using the generalised additive models for location, scale and shape method.Results A total of 7 966 693 test results from 34 countries (106 datasets) were used to develop sex-specific and age-specific percentile values. In addition, country-level rankings based on mean percentiles are provided for each fitness test, as well as an overall fitness ranking. Finally, an interactive fitness platform, including individual and group reporting and European fitness maps, is provided and freely available online ().Conclusion This study discusses the major implications of fitness assessment in youth from health, educational and sport perspectives, and how the FitBack reference values and interactive web-based platform contribute to it. Fitness testing can be conducted in school and/or sport settings, and the interpreted results be integrated in the healthcare systems across Europe.