Aims. To compare the physical fitness levels of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese school children and to study the association between any differences and their respective lifestyles.
Background. Genes and lifestyle are both factors contributing to health. Hong Kong is a Chinese city with distinctive lifestyle features such as a different diet and different entertainment and education from the rest of China. Using samples of the same ethnicity and investigating differences in the physical fitness parameters between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese school children might reveal the impact of some lifestyle factors on health.
Method. Primary school children (n = 522) were recruited. Demographic data were collected by questionnaire. Physical fitness tests were carried out.
Results. Significant differences were found in height, body weight, sit and reach, long jump, running 50 m and lung capacity. Hong Kong children were found to be taller and heavier at ages 6 and 7, but heavier with similar height to that of mainland children at ages 8–12. Other results showed better physical fitness on the part of mainland children.
Discussion. Although the people of Hong Kong share the same ethnicity as the majority of mainland Chinese, the eastern-mixed-with-western diet, education and entertainment of Hong Kong children differ greatly. The findings in terms of physical fitness revealed variations in body build, flexibility, cardiovascular function and muscle power between the two groups.
Conclusion. Lifestyle could possibly be a key factor and predictor of physical fitness, providing strong evidence to support the interaction between lifestyle and genes in their impact on our health.
Relevance to clinical practice. Lifestyle could possibly be a key factor and predictor of physical fitness and health outcomes. The finding of this study may enhance the identification of healthy lifestyle which may improve health outcomes in children.