Research Study Abstract

Fitness and fatness in relation with attention capacity in European adolescents: The HELENA study

  • Added on February 7, 2017

Objectives: To examine the association of health-related physical fitness components and accurate measures of fatness with attention in European adolescents.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: A sub-sample of 444 adolescents from the HELENA study (14.5 ± 1.2 years) from 6 different countries participated in this study. Adolescents underwent evaluations of fitness (20 m shuttle run, handgrip strength, standing long jump and 4 × 10 m shuttle run tests), fatness (body mass index, skinfold thicknesses, bioelectrical impedance, Bod Pod and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) and attention (d2-test).

Results: Higher cardiorespiratory fitness was positively associated with better attention capacity (β = 0.1, p = 0.03). Body mass index and fat mass index measured by Bod Pod and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry in a subset were negatively associated with attention (β = −0.11, p = 0.02; β = −0.36, p = 0.02; β = −0.34, p = 0.03; respectively). All models were adjusted for age, sex, family-affluence scale and mother education. When these models were additionally adjusted for cardiorespiratory fitness when fatness was the main predictor and vice versa, the associations were somewhat attenuated and were no longer statistically significant. Muscular strength, speed-agility and body fatness markers measured by bioelectrical impedance and skinfolds were not associated with attention. The fit and non-overweight adolescents presented the highest values of attention capacity whilst their unfit and overweight peers showed the lowest values of attention (47.31 ± 2.34 vs. 33.74 ± 4.39; p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Our results support that both cardiorespiratory fitness and fatness are associated with attention, yet these associations are not independent. A combined effect was also observed, with fit and non-overweight adolescents showing the highest levels of attention and those unfit and overweight the lowest.


  • Cristina Cadenas-Sanchez 1
  • Jeremy Vanhelst 2
  • Jonatan R. Ruiz 1
  • Ruth Castillo-Gualda 3
  • Lars Libuda 4,5
  • Idoia Labayen 6
  • Pilar De Miguel-Etayo 7
  • Ascensión Marcos 8
  • Eszter Molnár 9
  • Andrés Catena 10
  • Luis A. Moreno 7,11
  • Michael Sjöström 12
  • Frederic Gottrand 2
  • Kurt Widhalm 13
  • Francisco B. Ortega 1


  • 1

    PROFITH “PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity” Research Group, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Granada, Department of Physical Education and Sports, Spain

  • 2

    Inserm, LIRIC, UMR 995, Univ. Lille, CHU Lille, F-59000, France

  • 3

    Autonoma University of Madrid, Department of Biological and Health Psychology, Spain

  • 4

    Research Institute of Child Nutrition (FKE) Dortmund, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn, Germany

  • 5

    Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

  • 6

    University of the Basque Country, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, UPV-EHU, Spain

  • 7

    GENUD “Growth, Exercise, NUtrition and Development” Research Group, University of Zaragoza, Spain

  • 8

    Immunonutrition Research Group, Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Instituto del Frio, Institute of Food Science, Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain

  • 9

    Medical Faculty, Department of Paediatrics, University of Pécs, Hungary

  • 10

    Mind, Brain, and Behavior Research Center—CIMCYC, University of Granada, Spain

  • 11

    Instituto Agroalimentario de Aragón (IA2), Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Aragón (IIS Aragón), University of Zaragoza, Spain

  • 12

    Karolinska Institutet, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Sweden

  • 13

    Paracelsus Medical University, Department of Pediatrics, Austria


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