To describe the demographic and health-related characteristics of school-aged children with low competency in fundamental movement skills (FMS).
Cross-sectional representative school-based survey of Australian elementary and high school students (n = 6917) conducted in 2010. Trained field staff measured students’ height, weight, and assessed FMS and cardiorespiratory endurance (fitness). Information on students’ demographics and physical activity was collected by questionnaire.
Overall, the prevalence of students with low motor skill competency was high. Girls with low socioeconomic status (SES) were twice as likely to be less competent in locomotor skills compared with high SES peers. Among boys, there was a strong association between low competency in FMS and the likelihood of being from non–English-speaking cultural backgrounds. There was a clear and consistent association between low competency in FMS and inadequate cardiorespiratory fitness. For boys, there was a clear association between low competency in object-control skills and not meeting physical activity recommendations. Conversely, the odds of being inactive were double among girls who had low competency in locomotor skills.
Low competency in FMS is strongly associated with lower cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity levels in children and adolescents. The characteristics of students with competency in FMS differ by gender and skills types and show that interventions need to target girls from low SES backgrounds and boys from non–English-speaking cultural backgrounds. The high prevalence of low competency in FMS among Grade 4 students indicates that FMS interventions need to start during the preschool and early school years.