Previous research indicates growing evidence that physical fitness is a powerful marker for individual health perspectives. Therefore, the IDEFICS and I.Family studies included measures of physical fitness and aimed to explore the relationship of physical fitness to youth health. However, given the complex structure of individuals’ physical fitness, relevant test items had to be chosen wisely. In this chapter, we will introduce the complex construct of human physical fitness and its components, and briefly describe selected test batteries available for the assessment of physical fitness in youth. Afterwards, we will describe the test battery applied in the IDEFICS and I.Family studies in detail, which is a combined test battery of EUROFIT items, the backsaver sit and reach test, and the 20-m shuttle run. The protocol was well accepted by the children in the IDEFICS study and fitted to the small amount of time provided for the assessment of physical fitness. In I.Family, only handgrip strength was measured as a strong predictor for general health. The fitness measures of both studies contributed to the valuable database that is now available for analysis.
The development of instruments, the baseline data collection and the first follow-up work as part of the IDEFICS study (www.idefics.eu) were financially supported by the European Commission within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme Contract No. 016181 (FOOD). The most recent follow-up including the development of new instruments and the adaptation of previously used instruments was conducted in the framework of the I.Family study (www.ifamilystudy.eu) which was funded by the European Commission within the Seventh RTD Framework Programme Contract No. 266044 (KBBE 2010-14).
We thank all families for participating in the extensive examinations of the IDEFICS and I.Family studies. We are also grateful for the support from school boards, headmasters and communities.
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