Changes in motor competence over four decades in 10 to 14-year-old Austrian boys

Klaus Greier, Herbert Riechelmann, Gerhard Ruedl, Clemens Drenowatz


Background: Data on secular trends in motor competence in children and adolescents has been equivocal. While several studies have shown a decline in motor competence over the last several decades there is also research that showed no change or even an increase in motor competence in youth.

Methods: Motor competence was assessed via 6 test items in 10- to 14-year-old Austrian boys in the years 1972, 1987 and 2015. At each measurement time participants performed 20m sprint, 800m run, sit ups, jump and reach, one-leg stand and stand and reach tests in the school gymnasium during regular school time. Data across measurement times was compared using weighted means across 5 age groups with pooled standard deviations.

Results: Average performance on the 20m sprint, jump and reach test and one leg stand improved significantly (p<0.05) from 1972 to 2015 by 0.3 seconds, 3.9 cm and 3.5 seconds, respectively. Time for the 800m run increased significantly by 15% (p<0.01), indicating a decline in endurance. Flexibility, measured by the stand and reach test, also declined significantly (p=0.02) from 1972 to 2015. There was no significant difference in the number of sit ups performed at the 3 measurement times. 

Conclusion: Results of the present study do not show a general decline in motor competence in male middle-school students over the last 4 decades. Rather, secular trends differ by specific components contributing to overall motor competence with declines in flexibility and endurance but increases in power, speed and balance.


motor skills; secular trends; physical fitness; youth; adolescents

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