Fitness Testing Newsletter: What is the Fittest Sport?
Hi and welcome to the October 2009 fitness testing newsletter about comparing the fitness level of different sports.
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Which sports people are the fittest? This is a question that comes up time and time again. Fitness itself is hard to define, so it makes this often asked and debated question equally difficult to answer. That does not stop us from giving some results of comparisons between sports and discussing and confusing the issue even more.
The Canadian Experiment
In October 2003 a large group of more than 1000 amateur provincial Canadian athletes competed in a series of fitness tests at the Toronto Sky Dome. They were aged between the ages of 6 and 19, representing 16 sports (Alpine Skiing, Archery, Basketball, Bowling, Boxing, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, OFSAA School Sports, Rowing, Snowboarding, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Tennis and Track and Field). The aim of the day was to crown the "Fittest Sport in Ontario" while also promoting physical fitness for Canadian youth. The athletes completed 13 tests to determine their overall fitness level. Here are some of the tests that were used to determine the fittest sport.
- Speed - 40m sprint
- Strength Endurance - 60 sec box jump
- Upper body strength - push up , chin up or pull up
- Power - Standing long jump , opto-jump
- Agility - t-test
- Flexibility - stand & reach
- Aerobic Endurance - beep test
- Lactic - 400m run
The winning sport of the title "Fittest Sport in Ontario" at the end of the day was Alpine Skiing. This was no fluke - they won the award the following year too.
As the tests cover the full range of fitness components, the competition was aimed at finding the sport that had the best overall fitness. Individual athletes and sports may stand out in specific tests, but they needed to be good at most of them. There is no doubt that skiing is a very demanding sport. I can imagine that they performed very well on tests of upper body strength, power, agility, lactic and strength endurance.
If fitness was defined as endurance fitness, another skiing event, cross-country skiing, would be expected to come out on top too. A new section of the Topend Sports website lists the world best performances in many of the common fitness tests. In the VO2max category, cross-country skiers are highly represented on the top of the list.
When comparing sports or athletes to find the fittest, the most important thing is first define what is fitness, before trying to measure it. It will be hard to find anyone to agree of either of these, so this debate will always continue.
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