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Comparison of cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index between rural and urban youth: Findings from the East of England Healthy Hearts Study


Gavin R.H. Sandercock, PhD, Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK. Email:


Background:  The aim of the present study was to determine if there were differences in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and body mass index (BMI) in rural versus urban youth.

Methods:  We measured BMI in 6628 10.0–15.9-year-olds and classified them as normal weight, overweight or obese. CRF was assessed with a 20-m shuttle-run test and subjects were classified as unfit, fit or highly fit. Rural or urban dwelling was calculated from postcodes.

Results:  There were no differences in frequency of BMI categories or CRF between rural and urban children (<13 years) or adolescents (>13 years). Rural adolescents were less likely to be fit (OR = 0.80; 95%CI 0.67–0.96) or highly fit (OR = 0.69; 95%CI 0.55–0.86) independent of their age, sex, race or level of deprivation.

Conclusions:  Whilst there were no differences evident in children <13 years, rural adolescents were significantly less likely to meet criterion-based cut-off points for CRF. Research to elucidate why such differences exist is warranted.