Physical Fitness of Chinese Primary School Students across the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: A Retrospective Repeated Cross-Sectional Study

Dongyue Li, Wing Kai Lam, Yi Wang, Duo Wai-Chi Wong, James Chung-Wai Cheung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Social distancing measures against COVID-19 imposed restrictions on students that may have affected their physical health and fitness. The objective of this study was to investigate the change in physical fitness of primary school students across the coronavirus outbreaks from 2019 to 2021. This was a retrospective repeated cross-sectional study. We obtained the annual physical and fitness assessment data measured every November for all students at the same primary school in Guangzhou, China. There was a total of 6371 observations in the dataset for three years. The physical fitness of the students was evaluated with an overall physical fitness score, body mass index (BMI), lung vital capacity, physical flexibility (via a sit-and-reach test) and sports task performances (sprint, shuttle run, rope-jumping, and sit-up). Generalised estimating equations were used to determine any significant changes from 2019 to 2021, adjusted for confounders. After the COVID-19 outbreak in 2021, there was a significant elevation in BMI of 0.64 kg/m 2 in 2020 and 0.39 kg/m 2 in 2021 (p < 0.001). The overall physical fitness score was significantly increased by 2.1 and 4.1 points, respectively, in 2020 and 2021 (p < 0.001). Lung vital capacity and rope-jumping performance were significantly improved in both 2020 and 2021 compared with 2019, and sit-up performance was marginally significantly improved in 2020 and significantly improved in 2021. However, students demonstrated poorer flexibility and sprint and shuttle run performance in 2021 compared with 2019. A health promotion programme during and after COVID-19, including online physical education classes, television broadcasts, and a rope-jumping campaign, could account for these positive outcomes, along with the ease of administering rope-jumping and sit-ups at home.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7870
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2022


  • 2019-nCoV
  • flexibility
  • middle childhood
  • muscular strength
  • physical activity
  • physical education
  • social distancing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Physical Fitness of Chinese Primary School Students across the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: A Retrospective Repeated Cross-Sectional Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this