Physical fitness is associated with health-related quality of life, especially in youth. The school plays a fundamental role in promoting physical activity in children, and the lack of a qualified Physical Education teacher in Italian primary schools could compromise their effective achievement of necessary levels of physical fitness.
To test physical fitness of Italian children and relate the results to already tested Norwegian and Lithuanian children using the same protocol. Besides, evaluate the correlation between Italian teachers’ prediction of physical fitness among their pupils with the children’s actual test results.
In this cross-sectional study, 170 children (79 boys and 91 girls) aged 6-10 from two different northeastern Italian schools (Veneto, Cadore) were tested by means of the Physical Fitness Test developed in Norway by Fjørtoft et al. (2011). The test battery is composed of 9 elements: a standing broad jump, hopping 7 m on two feet, hopping 7 m on one foot, throwing a tennis ball, pushing a medicine ball, climbing wall bars, a 10 x 5 m shuttle run, a 20 m run, and a 6-minute Cooper test.
Data across sex and age groups were analyzed. Test scores increased with older age, steeper for boys. Boys performed generally better on most test items. Italian children performed similarly to Norwegian children whereas they performed better on almost every test item across sex and age groups relate to Lithuanians. Both Norwegian and Lithuanian children performed particularly better in climbing wall bars and the reduced Cooper test related to Italians. The correlation between teachers’ predictions and the actual test results for boys was rather low (0.538, p < 0.001), and even lower for girls (0.360, p < 0.001).
Data showed similar results in physical fitness among countries, with some differences on individual items. Italian teachers were not able to assess physical fitness very well. The poor capability of Italian primary schools’ teachers in predicting physical fitness may reside in the lack of a specific academic training within Physical Education.||