BACKGROUND: Health-related testing in school environments may be led by PE lessons facilities, which represent an optimal context. Aiming to investigate the developmental trajectories of physical and motor traits during PE lessons, we recruited 381 children in grades 1, 2, 4, and 5 of Primary School in Abruzzo, Italy.METHODS: We included anthropometric indexes (Body Mass Index and Waist-to-Height Ratio) and fitness tests. i.e. 4*10 m Shuttle Run test (4*10 SR), Handgrip Strength test, and standing Long Jump test (LJ). We also included two fine motor skills (FMS) tests and collected data about sports participation.RESULTS: Gender differences were found about sports participation (boys were more involved in open-skills sports) and motor skills, with girls outperforming boys in FMS and vice versa in fitness measures, even if with small evidence. There was an increment in all the tests with age, with the most robust evidence about handgrip strength and FMS. School clustering had a significant random effect on some fitness measures (4*10 SR and LJ). Despite high sports participation, an impairment in older children was detected, with a special alarm in older boys about metabolic risk.CONCLUSIONS: The small-to-moderate correlations between parameters suggest that there are similarities in the developmental trajectories, but also that it should be assessed a wide range of motor skills and anthropometric indexes. In conclusion, we support the assessment of gender-and-context-related developmental trajectories in the school setting, by the mean of fitness measures, anthropometric indexes, and FMS, to be compared with local and general references, as evidence-based planning of PE interventions.
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