BACKGROUND: Physical fitness has been proposed as a marker for health during adolescence. Currently, little is known about physical fitness and its association with blood lipid profile in adolescents from low and middle-income countries. The aim of this study is therefore to assess physical fitness among urban and rural adolescents and its associations with blood lipid profile in a middle-income country.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted between January 2008 and April 2009 in 648 Ecuadorian adolescents (52.3% boys), aged 11 to 15 years, attending secondary schools in Cuenca (urban n = 490) and Nabón (rural n = 158). Data collection included anthropometric measures, application of the EUROFIT battery, dietary intake (2-day 24 h recall), socio-demographic characteristics, and blood samples from a subsample (n = 301). The FITNESGRAM standards were used to evaluate fitness. The associations of fitness and residential location with blood lipid profile were assessed by linear and logistic regression after adjusting for confounding factors.
RESULTS: The majority (59%) of the adolescents exhibited low levels of aerobic capacity as defined by the FITNESSGRAM standards. Urban adolescents had significantly higher mean scores in five EUROFIT tests (20 m shuttle, speed shuttle run, plate tapping, sit-up and vertical jump) and significantly most favorable improved plasma lipid profile (triglycerides and HDL) as compared to rural adolescents. There was a weak association between blood lipid profile and physical fitness in both urban and rural adolescents, even after adjustment for confounding factors.
CONCLUSIONS: Physical fitness, in our sample of Ecuadorian adolescents, was generally poor. Urban adolescents had better physical fitness and blood lipid profiles than rural adolescents. The differences in fitness did not explain those in blood lipid profile between urban and rural adolescents.