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J Pediatr. 2009 Jan;154(1):61-66.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.07.041. Epub 2008 Sep 10.

Are muscular and cardiovascular fitness partially programmed at birth? Role of body composition.

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  • 1Department of Medical Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Granada, Grenada, Spain.



To determine whether birth weight is associated with handgrip strength and cardiovascular fitness in adolescence and, if so, how these associations are influenced by current body composition.


A total of 1801 adolescents (983 females), age 13 to 18.5 years, from the AVENA (Alimentación y Valoración del Estado Nutricional de los Adolescentes Españoles [Food and Assessment of the Nutritional Status of Spanish Adolescents]) study were evaluated. Handgrip strength and cardiovascular fitness were assessed using the handgrip test and the 20-m shuttle run test, respectively.


Birth weight was positively associated with handgrip strength in females after controlling for current age, gestational age, breast-feeding, and adolescent body mass index (P = .002), body fat percentage (P < .001), or waist circumference (P = .005), but not after controlling for fat-free mass. The associations were similar yet weaker in males. Females with high birth weight (>90th percentile) had greater handgrip strength than those with normal (10th to 90th percentile) or low (<10th percentile) birth weight, after adjusting for body fat percentage (P = .004). All of the differences became nonsignificant after adjusting for adolescent fat-free mass. Birth weight was not associated with cardiovascular fitness.


High birth weight is associated with greater handgrip strength in adolescents, especially in females, yet these associations seem to be highly explained by fat-free mass.

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