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Physical fitness in rural children compared with urban children in Turkey


Mehtap Özdirenç, Dokuz Eylül University, School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, 35340, Inciralti, Izmir, Turkey. Email:


Abstract Background: In a crowded modern world it is vital that the promotion of sport and exercise should be compatible with environmental and public health outcomes. This study aims to investigate the effects of environmental factors, lifestyle and leisure time activities on physical fitness in rural and urban children.

Methods: A cross-sectional observational study of 98 rural and 74 urban healthy children (aged 9–11 years) was conducted in Turkey. A questionnaire was used in collecting information about the children's physical activity habits and their school's facilities. The physical fitness of children was evaluated with EUROFIT test battery.

Results: The rural children preferred to play football and volleyball while the urban children had a tendency to prefer indoor sports. The percent of urban children not involved in any sports activity was 35%, while this rate was 30.6% for rural children. It was also found that the urban children watched TV more than the rural children (13.4 ± 2.7 h/week, 10.9 ± 2.7 h/week, respectively). The results showed that body mass index and skinfolds thickness were higher in the urban children (P < 0.05). There were no significant differences in the hip–waist ratio or the hip and waist circumference between the two groups. In cardiopulmonary and motor fitness, no difference was found between the two groups. In contrast, flexibility and muscle endurance were significantly higher in the rural children.

Conclusion: The children living in the urban areas were more inactive and obese, which resulted in a decrease in their flexibility and muscle endurance fitness.