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An Overview of Health Fitness of Hong Kong Children and Adults in the Past 20 years (1984-2004) : 

An Overview of Health Fitness of Hong Kong Children and Adults in the Past 20 years (1984-2004) Fu, Frank H1 Nie, J.L.2 and Tong, K.K.1 Hong Kong Baptist University1 Beijing Sports University2


Introduction 1900’s – General Motor Ability Tests 1930’s - The Roger Physical Fitness Index 1958 - The President Council on Physical Fitness was founded in the US 1960’s – Asian Physical Performance Test 1970’s –The concept of health fitness was introduced in the US and it slowly gained acceptance in other countries. 1982 - The first research project on physical fitness profile of Hong Kong school children was conducted and it was subsequently expanded to include health fitness in 1990’s (To, 1985; Fu, 1994).


1998 - A study on the general public in Hong Kong showed that over 60% was sedentary – they exercised less than once per week (Fu et al., 1998). 21st C - Recent researchers on local school children suggested that their physical fitness profile was on the downward trend and the percentage of children with one or more coronary heart disease risk factors was quite high - 46.3% . (Fu & Hao, 2002 & 2003; Fu et al., 2004). A review of research findings conducted in this area during the past 20 years (1984-2004) would be timely and useful in planning strategies to develop physically fit and healthy children in the territory in the new century.


Methodolgy In conducting the review of literature, research findings will be presented in six major sections namely obesity, physical fitness, cardiovascular risk factors, physical activity, lifestyle, and growth and development.


Obesity It is apparent from the review of literature, the definition of obesity is not universal and it will affect the reported prevalence in different countries. In using BMI, the differences between ethnic groups must be considered and the choice of the cut-off point that ranges from 23.0 to 30.0 kg/m2 can be the source of variance. For Hong Kong Chinese, the use of percent body fat to define overweight and obesity appeared to be more valid. Furthermore, it is accepted that the prevalence of obesity among children is increasing at an alarming rate and measures must be taken to intervene this trend. It is also noted that the influence of the parents is very important and that the correlation between adult and child obesity is high. Some studies explored new methods that are simple and economic to assess body composition but with mixed results in reliability and validity. Cardiovascular heart disease is the number two killer in Hong Kong and obesity is a risk factor that can be modified through modification of diet and lifestyle, education and exercise. It is obvious that obesity is a disease that will require our combined effort to prevent it from becoming a global plague in the 21st Century.

Physical Fitness: 

Physical Fitness Researches in the area of physical fitness and exercise have flourished during the past 20 years. Studies were conducted to investigate different populations and develop norms for them, to compare different cohorts and ethnic groups, and to introduce models in explaining the inter-relationships between the various factors. The nature of the research projects also varied from field to experimental setting, from cross-sectional to longitudinal study, and from descriptive to analytical design. The importance of the application of research findings of other countries to the local setting was noted and this would lead to more studies on the aspect of transferability such as validity and reliability. In testing, the Asian Physical Performance Test developed in 1960’s were still being used in the schools although some also adopted the AAHPERD Physical Best Test, the ICHHPER.SD Health-related Fitness Test, and the Chinese Physical Fitness Testing Protocol (Fu, 1994; Fu, 1998; Fu et al., 2004). Future challenges for us include developing interest and fun to our school children to exercise regularly and to eat wisely, and to cater to the special needs of other populations such as the disabled, the mentally retarded, and the elderly. It is imperative that we work together in our strive towards offering quality of life and wellness for all our residents in the territory.

Cardiovascular Risk Factors: 

Cardiovascular Risk Factors During the past 20 years, many researchers have conducted studies on the prevalence of CHD risk factors among different populations in Hong Kong. Three categories of CHD risk factors can be identified namely: Personal-related factors: Age, gender, family history and race; Behavioural-related factors: Stress, sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise), smoking, drinking, residence and diet; and Health-related factors: serum lipids (triglycerides), cholesterol (Total, LDL and HDL), diabetes (glucose intolerance and insulin resistance), overweight and obesity (percent body fat, BMI), metabolic syndrome, and enzyme imbalance. Some researchers noted that Hong Kong children were developing early symptoms of CHD and having 2-3 risk factors. It was suggested that Government must take the lead to develop and implement primary intervention programmes for target populations through education and promotion of active lifestyle, healthy diet and exercise.

Physical Activity: 

Physical Activity The majority of researches conducted in Hong Kong in physical activity were with children and adolescents. This might suggest that the importance of cultivating positive attitude towards physical activity and developing a healthy and active lifestyle through physical activity was recognized. While it is essential to offer physical activities that are fun and safe, they should also provide opportunities for socialization and skill learning/improvement. One study suggested that Hong Kong Chinese regarded health as most important and that they would like to have access to good sport facilities at affordable cost (Fu, 1993). The offering of different physical activities according to the interest of different age groups and genders is also essential and the role of the family will be an important consideration in planning future programmes/activities and facilities.


Lifestyle Researches on various aspects affecting lifestyle have been conducted and analysed such as physical activity, dietary habit, body weight, CHD risk factors, self-esteem, depression, and energy consumption and expenditure, and with a wide range of Hong Kong Chinese of different age cohorts and characteristics. In order for Hong Kong to remain as an international business city, the demand and focus on quality of life and the health and productivity of the workforce must begin with the promotion and development of an attractive lifestyle for residents from different socio-economical background and age cohorts.

Growth and Development for Children and Adolescents: 

Growth and Development for Children and Adolescents It is desirable to conduct longitudinal studies on the growth and development of children but only a few of them have been published from the review of literature. Secular growth in height have been noted with the change of diet to include more protein. However, the overall increase in calories intake and fat also resulted in an increase prevalence of overweight and obesity among children. In Hong Kong, we notice that there might be a gender difference on body image and perception – adolescent girls tended to be underweight. Further studies in this area would be desirable to monitor the growth and development of our children.


Summary The interest in health fitness led to over 100 research projects conducted in the territory in the past 20 years (1984-2004). While every support has been made to include as many research publications as possible in the review exercise, it is very likely that some publications, such as articles published prior to 1988, were overlooked and thus not presented. The authors were fully aware of this limitation that our search was not exhaustive.


It was worth noted that support for the research reports was obtained from various agencies/foundations such as the Croucher Foundation, Sir David Trench Fund, University Grant Committee (UGC), the Department of Health, the Department of Education, and the Hong Kong Sports Development Board. During the past 20 years, research has slowly become an integral part of the sport community in Hong Kong and local scholars have published in overseas journals as well as in three local refereed journals. The latter is particularly significant since this will shorten the time lapse for research findings to reach practitioners in the field and create an impact. Coupled with periodic hosting of local/regional conferences/seminars/workshops, Hong Kong scholars, professionals and public are kept well informed of current and future trends. Research centres have been established in some tertiary institutions, which further reinforce the importance of conducting both theoretical and applied research in health fitness and related areas. In order for sport culture to be developed in the territory, continuous interest and funding of research in this area together with the promotion and marketing of health fitness research findings would be imperative.


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