Individual-, Family-, and School-Level Ecological Correlates With Physical Fitness Among Chinese School-Aged Children and Adolescents: A National Cross-Sectional Survey in 2014

Yanhui Dong, Manman Chen, Li Chen, Bo Wen, Yide Yang, Zhenghe Wang, Yinghua Ma, Yi Song*, Jun Ma*, Patrick W. C. Lau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)



Few studies have examined the association between the individual-, family-, and school-level ecological correlates and physical fitness among Chinese children and adolescents, which is the purpose of the present study. 


A total of 157,168 children and adolescents, 10-18 years of age, with physical fitness data in 2014, participated in the study. Physical fitness was assessed, using six tests: forced vital capacity, standing long jump, sit and reach, body muscle strength, 50-m dash, and endurance running. Scores were aggregated to form a summary physical fitness indicator (PFI), which was then classified into five levels: low, low-middle, middle, middle-high, and high. Each option of individual-, family-, and school-level measures were constructed into a positive or negative correlate of physical fitness and then accumulated as a composite ecological score. 


Among the 20 individual-, family-, and school-level correlates, 18 were found to be significantly associated with PFI, with high PFI levels being correlated with the positive group of correlates and low PFI levels correlated with the negative group of correlates (p < 0.05). High scores of ecological correlates were associated with a high level of PFI [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 1.06, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.07)] whereas low scores were associated with a low level of PFI (OR = 0.95, 95% CI:0.95, 0.95). The ecological correlates at the individual, school- and family-levels were shown to be significantly related to high PFI among Chinese children and adolescents aged 10-18 years with different ORs of 5.97 (95% CI: 5.51, 6.47), 3.94 (3.66, 4.24), and 1.25 (1.19, 1.31). The PAR% of 20 cumulative factors effects due to the negative and positive responses for low PFI levels were 35.9 and 16.1%, and, for high PFI levels, were 15.3 and 24.1%, among Chinese children and adolescents, respectively. Compared with the correlates at family and school levels, the correlates at individual levels had the largest PAR%. 


Individual-, family-, and school-multilevel factors had a significant cumulative association with either improving or worsening aspects of physical fitness. Individual level factors remain at the core of physical fitness improvement. Comprehensive policies and measures are urgently needed to enhance the physical fitness of Chinese children and adolescents through involving further individual and environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number684286
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

User-Defined Keywords

  • children and adolescents
  • China
  • cross-sectional survey
  • ecological correlates
  • physical fitness


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