Physical activity, body composition and physical fitness status of primary school children in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces of South Africa
This study was designed to assess the physical activity (PA), body composition and physical fitness status of 1361 (boys: n=678; girls: n= 683) primary school children aged 9-12 years in Mpumalanga (MP) and Limpopo (LP) provinces of South Africa. Anthropometric and physical fitness measurements were taken using the protocol of the International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK) (Marfell-Jones, Old, Steward & Carter, 2006) and EUROFIT (1988) test battery. Body composition was estimated by calculating body mass index (BMI) (weight/height2) and wait-to-hip ratio, respectively. BMI for age and gender was used to classify the children as underweight, overweight or obese (Cole et al., 2007), whilst percentage body fat (%BF) indicated adiposity. The %BF was calculated from sum of two skinfolds (triceps and subscapular) using Slaughter et al.’s (1988) equation to predict body fat. The results showed that 75% of the children were underweight/stunted and 1.6% overweight. Frequencies of underweight, normal weight and overweight were 77%, 22.4% and 0.2% in MP and 72%, 24% and 3% in LP province. Boys in both provinces were taller and heavier than the girls. With regard to health-related physical fitness, at age 10 the MP boys performed significantly (p=0.05) better in sit-up (SUP: 20.5 ±5.430) than the LP boys (18.6±6.56). The LP boys did significantly better than the MP boys in sit and reach (SAR) at ages 10 and 11. The MP boys significantly (p=0.00) performed better in SBJ (121.6±910cm) as compared to the Limpopo (118.4±11.00cm) ones at age 9. Generally, LP boys did significantly (p=0.00) better than the MP across all ages. With regards to PA, the results showed that 27.7% (377), 58.5% (796) and 13.8% (188) of the children participate in low, moderate and high PA, respectively. Children in MP province had high PA (28.6%) as compared to the low PA participation in LP children (26.7%). Furthermore, 59.7% of MP children as compared to the LP children (57.3%) participated in moderate PA. A higher PA participation rate of 15.8% was found in the LP children than those in MP province (11.6%). It is important to periodically evaluate PA levels in South African children in order to alleviate increasing concerns over the potential health crises associated with underweight and low levels of PA status in the children.
Keywords: Anthropometry, body composition, physical activity, health-related physical fitness, stunting, South African children.