Physical fitness reference standards in European children: the IDEFICS study

P De Miguel-Etayo*, L Gracia-Marco, F B Ortega, T Intemann, R Foraita, L Lissner, L Oja, G Barba, N Michels, M Tornaritis, D Molnár, Y Pitsiladis, W Ahrens, L A Moreno, IDEFICS Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

147 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Objectives: A low fitness status during childhood and adolescence is associated with important health-related outcomes, such as increased future risk for obesity and cardiovascular diseases, impaired skeletal health, reduced quality of life and poor mental health. Fitness reference values for adolescents from different countries have been published, but there is a scarcity of reference values for pre-pubertal children in Europe, using harmonised measures of fitness in the literature. The IDEFICS study offers a good opportunity to establish normative values of a large set of fitness components from eight European countries using common and well-standardised methods in a large sample of children. Therefore, the aim of this study is to report sex- and age-specific fitness reference standards in European children.

Subjects/Methods: Children (10 302) aged 6-10.9 years (50.7% girls) were examined. The test battery included: the flamingo balance test, back-saver sit-and-reach test (flexibility), handgrip strength test, standing long jump test (lower-limb explosive strength) and 40-m sprint test (speed). Moreover, cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed by a 20-m shuttle run test. Percentile curves for the 1st, 3rd, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, 90th, 97th and 99th percentiles were calculated using the General Additive Model for Location Scale and Shape (GAMLSS).

Results: Our results show that boys performed better than girls in speed, lower- and upper-limb strength and cardiorespiratory fitness, and girls performed better in balance and flexibility. Older children performed better than younger children, except for cardiorespiratory fitness in boys and flexibility in girls.

Conclusions: Our results provide for the first time sex- and age-specific physical fitness reference standards in European children aged 6-10.9 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S57-S66
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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