Assessment of Health Related Physical Fitness and Motor Skill Ability of 9-11 Year Old School Children in Nairobi County, Kenya
Odindo, Francis Okinda
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Physical activity (PA) is recognized as an important determinant for chronic lifestyle diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) PA is one of the major underlying causes of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) leading to significant global burden of death, disease and disability among children and adults. There are many factors that influence PA among school children, including physical fitness and motor skill development. Health-related physical fitness includes cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition. Motor skills include elements of locomotor and object-control movements. The aim of the study was to assess health-related physical fitness components and motor skill ability among 9-11 year old school children in Nairobi County, Kenya. A cross-sectional descriptive survey design was used. A total of 199 (106 female and 93 male) school children were tested. The following variables were measured using standardized procedures, children’s height and weight, low back flexibility, muscular strength, static abdominal muscular endurance, aerobic fitness and motor skill ability. These factors are thought to influence the quantity and quality of PA thus justifying their inclusion. The study targeted school children in both public (n=104) and private schools (n=95). Ethical clearance was obtained from the Kenyatta University Ethics Review Board. Research permits were obtained from the Ministry of Education and Nairobi City Council. Consent was sought from the parents of children who took part in the study, the children also provided assent to participate. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics using SPSS version 17.0. Independent T-tests were used to compare differences in the means of variables. Chi-square tests were used to establish the relationship between categorical variables. BMI cut-offs were based on the recommended 2010 WHO international cut-offs. The results have been presented in tables. A p-value of 0.05 was considered significant. The average age was 9.9 years. Aerobic endurance was significantly associated with sex (p=0.004 [χ 2 = 13.396]) with boys performing better than girls. Flexibility was significantly associated with sex p<0.0001 (χ 2 = 25.33), girls were more flexible than boys. Children with good motor skill ability were the more physically fit compared to their counterparts. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 24.2%. Males showed a better motor performance than females. Regarding motor skills, 28.6% of the children were at the beginning level, 55.3% progressing, only 4% and 3% were achieving and excelling respectively. 38.2% had very low cardiovascular fitness, 31.7% progressing, 11.6% were achieving and 9.5% excelled, 46.2% had low torso muscular endurance while only 2.5% were excelling. Overall, the children had average scores in motor skill ability, aerobic endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, and body composition. Their performance in flexibility was above average. Improving children's motor skill ability may be a good target for increasing PA in youth. A longitudinal study exploring the relationship between changes in health-related fitness and motor skill ability should be carried out so as to establish the effect of time on the variables. Also, a similar study targeting rural children and peri-urban kids could also be interesting.