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Comparing health-related physical fitness and activity between old order Mennonite children in Ontario and rural children in Saskatchewan



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Temporal trend research in some components of health-related physical fitness and activity among young people is lacking. However, the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in young people over the last couple decades has created speculation of secular deterioration in health-related physical fitness and activity. In an effort to address the speculation, this research project compared health-related physical fitness and activity between two groups of children: Old Order Mennonite children in southwestern Ontario (n = 124; aged 9.1 to 13.8 years), who live an agrarian lifestyle which does not include motorized transportation, computer use, or television viewing and rural children in central Saskatchewan (n = 165; aged 8.8 to 13.2 years), who live a contemporary Canadian lifestyle. The Canadian Physical Activity, Fitness, and Lifestyle Appraisal (CPAFLA) was used to measure health-related physical fitness. The CPAFLA is a battery of tests measuring anthropometry (standing height, body mass, skinfolds, and waist girth), cardiorespiratory endurance (step test), and musculoskeletal fitness (handgrip strength, push-ups, partial curl-ups, and trunk forward flexion). Physical activity was measured on seven consecutive days using the Model AM7164 activity monitor. The Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Children (PAQ-C) was also employed. The PAQ-C is a guided, self-administered seven-day recall questionnaire, which assesses general levels of physical activity in schoolchildren of grades four to eight during the school year. With biological age as a covariate, univariate and multivariate analyses of covariance were used to compare health-related physical fitness and activity between groups respectively. Old Order Mennonite children evinced greater mean handgrip strength (p < 0.0001) and rural Saskatchewan children demonstrated greater mean trunk forward flexion (p < 0.001). However, there were no significant differences between groups in the other health-related physical fitness variables. Old Order Mennonite children had significantly greater mean activity counts·min-1 (p < 0.001), mean activity counts·day-1 (p < 0.0001), and mean minutes of moderate physical activity·day-1 (p < 0.0001). Collectively, these results suggest that Old Order Mennonite children have greater static strength and are more physically active than rural Saskatchewan children. Assuming that Old Order Mennonite children represent Canadian children from previous generations, these results may lend support to secular deterioration in some aspects of health-related physical fitness and activity among Canadian children.



Monastic Culture, CSA, MTI, Accelerometer



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


College of Kinesiology


College of Kinesiology


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