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Does Childhood Motor Skill Proficiency Predict Adolescent Fitness?


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 12 - p 2137-2144
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818160d3
APPLIED SCIENCES: Physical Fitness and Performance

Purpose: To determine whether childhood fundamental motor skill proficiency predicts subsequent adolescent cardiorespiratory fitness.

Methods: In 2000, children's proficiency in a battery of skills was assessed as part of an elementary school-based intervention. Participants were followed up during 2006/2007 as part of the Physical Activity and Skills Study, and cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using the Multistage Fitness Test. Linear regression was used to examine the relationship between childhood fundamental motor skill proficiency and adolescent cardiorespiratory fitness controlling for gender. Composite object control (kick, catch, throw) and locomotor skill (hop, side gallop, vertical jump) were constructed for analysis. A separate linear regression examined the ability of the sprint run to predict cardiorespiratory fitness.

Results: Of the 928 original intervention participants, 481 were in 28 schools, 276 (57%) of whom were assessed. Two hundred and forty-four students (88.4%) completed the fitness test. One hundred and twenty-seven were females (52.1%), 60.1% of whom were in grade 10 and 39.0% were in grade 11. As children, almost all 244 completed each motor assessments, except for the sprint run (n = 154, 55.8%). The mean composite skill score in 2000 was 17.7 (SD 5.1). In 2006/2007, the mean number of laps on the Multistage Fitness Test was 50.5 (SD 24.4). Object control proficiency in childhood, adjusting for gender (P = 0.000), was associated with adolescent cardiorespiratory fitness (P = 0.012), accounting for 26% of fitness variation.

Conclusion: Children with good object control skills are more likely to become fit adolescents. Fundamental motor skill development in childhood may be an important component of interventions aiming to promote long-term fitness.

1Department of Rural Health (Northern Rivers), University of Sydney, Lismore, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA; 2Health Promotion, North Coast Area Health Service, Lismore, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA; 3Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA; 4Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA; and 5New York Academy of Medicine, New York, NY

Address for correspondence: Lisa M. Barnett, MPH, Bch, Soc Sci, Department of Rural Health (Northern Rivers), University of Sydney, PO Box 3074, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia; Email:

Submitted for publication March 2008.

Accepted for publication May 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine