Introduction: Monitoring of physical fitness in youth is important because physical fitness is a summative indicator of health. From a developmental and preventive perspective, physical fitness levels are relatively stable from childhood to early adulthood. Thus, it is important to monitor physical fitness on a population based level being able to intervene at early stages (1). In order to reliably assess and evaluate the physical fitness of youth, a reliable system of standard values based on representative data is required. The aim of this analysis is to report sex- and age-specific physical fitness percentile curves from childhood to early adulthood in a nationwide sample in Germany.
Methods: We use data from the nationwide representative Motorik Modul (MoMo) Study in Germany (data collection wave 1: 2009–2012; age: 4–23 years; n = 3,742; 50.1% female). Physical fitness was assessed by means of the MoMo test profile covering four dimensions of physical fitness (strength, endurance, coordination, and flexibility) and including eight physical fitness items. Percentile curves were fitted using the LMS transformation method of Cole and Green.
Results: Standardized age- and sex-specific physical fitness percentiles were calculated for eight items: ergometric endurance testing, standing long jump, push-ups, sit-ups, jumping side-ways, balancing backwards, static stand, and stand and reach test. The physical fitness curves differ according to gender and the fitness dimension. Physical fitness improvements with age are linear (e.g., max. strength) or curvilinear (e.g., coordination) and have their stagnation points at different times over the course of adolescence.
Discussion: Our results provide for the first time sex- and age-specific physical fitness percentile curves for Germany from 4 to 17 years. Differences in curve-shapes indicating a timed and capacity-specific physical fitness development. Nationwide German physical fitness percentiles can be useful in comparing different populations (e.g., cross-country), reporting secular trends, comparing special groups, and to evaluate physical fitness interventions.