Are children of military parents more physically fit than children of civilian parents?

Mark B. Stephens, Jeffrey J. Harrison, Cindy Wilson, Robert L. Ringler, Chris Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: It is not known whether parental activity levels influence children's physical fitness. Members of the military, are required to maintain standards of physical fitness, whereas the civilian population is not. We conducted this study to compare fitness levels of children in military and civilian families. Methods: This was a prospective cohort study of third-grade students from two public schools in San Diego County, Calif. Attendees of one school included children of enlisted service personnel. Attendees of the other school included officers' children. Civilian students attended both schools. Students'physical fitness was tested with several standard instruments, including time on a 1-mile run. Independent variables included whether students had civilian or military parents, television viewing habits, and parental military status (enlisted personnel versus officer) as a surrogate marker for socioeconomic status. Results:A total of 170 of 246 (70%) eligible students completed the study. Children of military parents had lower scores on the mile run and lower scores on other measures of fitness than did children of civilian parents. Socioeconomic status (ie, child of officer versus enlisted personnel) was the strongest predictor of poor fitness, with children of enlisted service members scoring lower on all measures of physical fitness than officers' children. More television viewing was associated with lower levels of fitness. Conclusions: Children of military parents did not have a higher fitness level than children of civilian parents. Lower socioeconomic status and more television viewing are associated with lower levels of fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-407
Number of pages4
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice


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