Basic physical fitness was measured using 8 different measures for 10,295 South African children and youths (5,611 boys, 4,684 girls) ages 6 to 13 years. These measurements included height, weight, Body Mass Index, standing long jump, shuttle run, sit-and-reach, sit-up (EUROFIT testing battery), and cricket ball throw scores. Due to the effects of earlier apartheid laws on separating communities, it was hypothesized that scores for different ethnic groups may differ. Therefore, in addition to the calculation of basic norms and sex differences, ethnic differences were also tested. Height and weight, relative to age, were different between the various ethnic groups (Black, White, and Mixed ancestry) for boys, with Black boys being shorter and lighter than White boys. There were no differences in sit-and-reach flexibility scores between the groups. With the exception of the cricket ball throw for girls, White children had higher scores in most tests. Although not significantly different from the White children, in the majority of cases, the children of mixed ancestral origin had scores that ranged between the other two ethnic groups. These results suggest a need for encouraging fitness in school children, and the reintroduction of formal physical education into the South African school curriculum, especially into schools in which Black children predominate.

Original publication




Journal article


Percept Mot Skills

Publication Date





999 - 1016


Adolescent, African Continental Ancestry Group, Body Height, Body Weight, Child, Cross-Cultural Comparison, European Continental Ancestry Group, Female, Humans, Male, Physical Education and Training, Physical Fitness, Reference Values, South Africa, Sports, Students