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Findings of first territory-wide physical fitness test announced

In terms of physical fitness, the onset of middle age might be earlier than what most Hong Kong people think. According to the findings of the first-ever territory-wide fitness test on Hong Kong citizens released today (September 23), 30 is the age at which our physical fitness starts to go downhill.

The Physical Fitness Test for the Community, organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department under the steer of the Community Sports Committee of the Sports Commission, was conducted between November 2005 and March 2006 on over 8,000 people.

"Indicators such as body weight, blood pressure, flexibility of muscle and joints and muscular strength and endurance show that physical fitness deteriorates from age 30 onwards,” said Dr Lo Wing-lok, Convener of the Advisory Committee on the Physical Fitness Test for the Community, at a press conference held at Kowloon Park to announce the findings.

"But it is also clear from the test results that the more frequently you exercise, the more physically fit you will be," Dr Lo added.

The Physical Fitness Test for the Community was carried out primarily to set up a data bank of the population’s physical condition and to identify the correlation between their physical condition and physical exercise pattern. The findings will help the Government formulate policies to improve the health of the population.

The test sample was divided into four age groups: toddlers aged between three and six; children between seven and 12; juveniles between 13 and 19 and adults between 20 and 69.

The test revealed that the overweight problem became noticeably worse after the age of 30 and this tendency was more pronounced among males than among females.

In the sample, 50 % of males aged over 30 and 64% of males aged over 40 were overweight. The corresponding percentages for female participants were 30% and 40%.

One quarter of male participants older than 30 were classified as obese, the proportion rising to 35 % when counting only those older than 40. The corresponding percentages for female age groups were both 17%.

The test indicated that the majority of the participants did not engage in enough physical activities. Only 26% of the adults and 33.8% of the children and juvenile engaged in sufficient physical activities to maintain physical health.

"We recommend that people should do physical exercise of moderate intensity three to five times a week," Dr Lo said.

"By 'moderate intensity', we mean the exercise should cause you to sweat lightly and raise your temperature and heartbeat but should not affect your ability to speak," he added.

"In particular, adults should exercise for an aggregate of 30 minutes a day. Juveniles (aged 13 to 19) should do moderate or strenuous exercise three times weekly, each time lasting for no less than 20 minutes, whereas children (primary students aged 12 or below) should accumulate 60 minutes of physical activities each day."

The test also showed that the habits of parents, in particular fathers, had a great deal of influence on how frequently their children exercise. Interestingly, while fathers’ exercising habits had a positive influence on both sons and daughters, mothers' exercising habits tended to have a positive influence on daughters only.

"We think that parents, fathers especially, should set a good example and take part in physical activities with their children," said Dr Lo.

Another finding about children was that 15.7% of those children who spent three hours each day watching television or using computer were overweight, as compared with only eight % of those who sat less than one hour each day in front of the television or the computer.

The effect of smoking on physical fitness was reflected in the test results. In the adult sample, male non-smokers fared better than smokers in having weights closer to the Body Mass Index (BMI), narrower waists, lower resting heartbeat rates and better reaction time. Ladies may wish to know that in this sample, non-smoking women's waists measured on average one inch less than women smokers'.

When asked to state why they lacked enthusiasm for physical activities, 28.1% of the children and juvenile cited "tiredness" while 18.5% of them cited "lack of time", even though 76.9% of them said they liked physical education classes and 71.9% said they liked organised physical activities.

Among the adults, 32.2% cited "laziness" while 21.1% cited "lack of time" as the reason for inactivity.

Cycling and various ball games were the most popular physical activities among toddlers while swimming and ball games were children’s and juveniles' favourites. Adults, on the other hand, preferred walking and running.

The Physical Fitness Test for the Community was conducted with reference to the State Sport General Administration's work plan for monitoring physical fitness of nationals.

The Community Sports Committee has recommended that the test be conducted every five years in future.

Besides Dr Lo, today's press conference was chaired by Chairman of the Community Sports Committee, Mr Chau How-chen; Associate Professor of the Sports Science and Physical Education Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dr Hui Sai-chuen; and Assistant Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Miss Olivia Chan.

Ends/Saturday, September 23, 2006
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