Cardio health is just not linked to motor expertise, research reveals


Clumsy children with better motor skills can be just as fit aerobically as their peers, a new Finnish study shows. The results are based on research carried out at the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at Jyväskylä University and the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland and published in Translational Sports Medicine.

Aerobic fitness is not associated with motor skills

It is generally accepted that healthy children also have good motor skills, while poor aerobic fitness is seen as a link between poor motor skills and obesity. This perception is based on studies whose methods do not differentiate between the role of aerobic fitness and body fat content as risk factors for poor motor skills and obesity.

“Our study clearly showed that aerobic fitness is not linked to motor skills when body composition is properly considered,” explains Dr. Eero Haapala from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at Jyväskylä University.

“Aerobic fitness was also not strongly linked to being overweight or obese. Hence, the role of poor aerobic fitness as a risk factor for poor motor skills and excess body weight appears to have been greatly exaggerated.”

The development of motor skills can be supported

This study did not investigate the role of movement in the development of motor skills. However, previous studies have shown that a set of exercises that differ in motor challenge and intensity, regardless of aerobic fitness and body fat content, help develop motor skills. Increased physical activity and less sedentary behavior can also protect against the development of obesity.

“The key message of our study is that even a child who is not fit can be motor skills and the heart of a clumsy child can be just as fit as his or her more skilled peer,” says Haapala. “In addition, a high level of varied physical activity and reduced physical inactivity are central to developing motor skills and preventing excessive weight gain since childhood.”

The study examined the relationships between aerobic fitness, body fat content and motor skills in 332 children aged 7 to 11 years. Aerobic fitness was measured using a maximal exercise bike test and body composition using bioimpedance and DXA machines. Motor skills were measured using common methods.


Jyväskylä University

Journal reference:

Haapala, EA, et al. (2020) Relationships Between Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Motor Skill, and Obesity in Children. Translational Sports Medicine.