Fitness testing methods designed for adults are inaccurate when used on children, according to physiologists at the University of Wales, Bangor.
The heart rates of adults are measured after intensive exercise for a given period of time, but studies of 8 to 10-year-old children at Glan Gegin Garndd primary school, Bangor, have shown that children only exercise intensively in short bursts.
After encouraging the children to walk, run, hop and play with a ball, human physiology lecturer Roger Eston found that slimmer, fitter children had lower heart rates than their fatter classmates.
In an attempt to find a more accurate method of measuring pupils' fitness, Dr Eston gave each child a heart-rate monitor and devices to measure total body movement and number of steps taken.Dr Eston says these provided a more accurate picture of a child's activity and enabled him to prove conclusively for the first time the commonly-held belief that fat children are less fit than their slimmer classmates.
Researchers will now try to establish the optimum level of fitness for 8 to 10-year-olds, which parents and teachers can then use as a guide.