Secular Trends In The Physical Fitness Of Brazilian Youth: Evidence That Fitness Is Declining For The Majority But Not For A Fit Minority

Alan M. Nevill, Michael Duncan, Adoraldo Gaya, Julio Brugnara Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There has been a decline in children’s physical fitness in recent decades. Such concerns are largely based on evidence from North America, Europe and Asia. The current study describes the secular trend and variation (spread) in the physical fitness scores of young Brazilians from 2005 to 2022.
Methods: This study is a repeated, cross-sectional surveillance study (1999-2022). Children and adolescents (n=65139; boys =36539) participated between 2005 and 2022. In each cohort six physical fitness tests were conducted: 1) 20-m sprint speed (m.s-1), 2) cardio-respiratory 6-min run test (m.min-1), 3) abdominal-strength test (sit-ups per min), 4) horizontal-jump test (cm), 5) the agility test (m.s-1), and 6) the medicine ball throw test (cm). Means and distributional characteristics of the population were assessed using ANOVA, ANCOVA adopting BMI as the body-size covariate, Levene’s test of equality-of-error variances, and Box and whisker plots.
Results: ANOVAs and ANCOVA’s identified significant declines in physical fitness over time/year in 5 of the 6 physical fitness variables (e.g., 20-m sprint speed slope B =-0.018 (m.s-1.yr-1); 95% CI -0.019 to -0.017; PConclusions: Results provide powerful evidence that children and adolescents’ physical fitness is declining, a trend that is also diverging asymmetrically, becoming more extreme in more recent years. The ‘fit’ appear to be getting fitter, but the fitness of the ‘less-fit’ appears to be declining further. These results have important implications for sports medicine and government policy makers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2079-2089
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Issue number10
Early online date4 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jul 2023


During the years 2003 and 2009, the Ministry of Sport of Brazil, through the National Secretariat of High Performance Sport, financed PROESP‐Br. The funding was for the purchase of materials for data collection. The Project that originates this manuscript was supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Brazil. Process number 305200/2013‐5. Publisher Copyright: © 2023 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • adolescents
  • change
  • children
  • exercise test
  • motor performance


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