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Gazzetta Medica Italiana Archivio per le Scienze Mediche 2014 March;173(3):119-26

language: English

Physical activity and aerobic fitness level in children living at high altitude in Tibet

Berntsen S. 1, Bianba B. 2, 3, Andersen L. B. 4, 5, Luobu O. 3, Bjertness E. 2, 3

1 Department of Public Health, Sport and Nutrition Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway;
2 Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway;
3 Research Center for High Altitude Medicine Tibet University Medical College, Lhasa Tibet Autonomous Region, China;
4 Department of Sports Medicine Norwegian School of Sport Sciences Oslo, Norway;
5 Denmark Institute of Sports Science and Biomechanics, Faculty of Health University of Southern Denmark Odense, Denmark


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Aim: The present study aimed to determine objectively measured physical activity levels and aerobic fitness using direct measurements of peak oxygen uptake (aerobic fitness) in a sample of children living at high altitude, in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China.
Methods: Twenty-five Tibetan and 15 Han Chinese school children (9-10 yrs old) living in Lhasa, 3658 metre above sea level, performed maximal cycling on a cycle ergometer with oxygen uptake measurements. Peak oxygen uptake was defined as aerobic fitness. The participants also wore an activity monitor, SenseWearTM Pro2 Armband (BodyMedia, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, USA) for six consecutive days.
Results: All children fulfilled the physical activity recommendations, which recommend children to be daily physically active for at least 60 minutes. Moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) was significantly higher (P=0.04) in boys (Median and 95% Confidence Intervals; 5.0 (2.6, 7.3) hours per day) vs. girls (3.1 (2.6, 4.5) hours per day), respectively. Tibetan boys had higher MVPA compared to Han Chinese boys although not significant. Boys had significantly higher (P<0.001) aerobic fitness compared to girls (47.3 (43.4, 52.1) vs. 40.4 (37.2, 42.9) ml·kg-1·min-1, respectively. There were no significant differences in aerobic fitness between Tibetan and Han Chinese children.
Conclusion: The children living at high altitude included in the present study were fit and physically active.

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