Trends in physical fitness among Canadian children and youth. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: Physical fitness during childhood is an important indicator of current and future health. This paper provides an overview of the fitness of Canadian children and youth aged 6 to 19 years. DATA AND METHODS: Data are from three cycles of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) spanning a 10-year period: 2007 to 2009 (n = 2,081), 2009 to 2011 (n = 2,133) and 2016 to 2017 (n = 2,070). The CHMS is a comprehensive direct health measures survey conducted on a nationally representative sample of Canadians. Descriptive statistics for measures of cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength and power, flexibility, and body composition are provided by age group and sex. Physical fitness measures are presented for participants who met and did not meet the physical activity and screen time recommendations. RESULTS: Few changes in the fitness measures occurred over the past decade. Cardiorespiratory fitness decreased between 2007-2009 and 2016-2017 in 8 to 10 (52.1 to. 51.0 mL•kg-1•min-1) and 11 to 14 (50.8 to 49.8 mL•kg-1•min-1) year old boys. Girls generally had lower levels of fitness compared to boys, except for flexibility which was higher in girls. Cardiorespiratory fitness was higher in children and youth who met the current Canadian recommendations for physical activity and screen time. Grip strength was higher in boys who met the current Canadian screen time recommendation. DISCUSSION: Ongoing and periodic surveillance of fitness through the CHMS is important to monitor trends, assess future interventions designed to improve fitness levels at the population level and to increase our understanding of the relationships between fitness and health.


  • Colley, Rachel C
  • Clarke, Janine
  • Doyon, Caroline Y
  • Janssen, Ian
  • Lang, Justin J
  • Timmons, Brian
  • Tremblay, Mark S

publication date

  • October 16, 2019

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