In the Leuven Growth Study of Belgian Boys the growth and physical performance of Belgian boys followed longitudinally between 12 and 19 years were studied. Subsequently, a subsample (n = 240) of Flemish-speaking males were reexamined at 30 and 35 years. A first question relates to the individual growth patterns in a variety of physical fitness characteristics. The three strength tests (static, functional, explosive) show curves that are qualitatively similar to those for height and weight. Their adolescent spurts occur after the height spurt. Flexibility and the two speed tests appear to reach maximum velocities prior to the height and weight spurts. Longitudinal principal component analysis was applied to the study of growth patterns of several somatic and motor characteristics. The results for height show three components sufficient to provide an adequate representation of the original information. The first component characterizes the general position of an individual growth curve. Components 2 and 3 reflect fluctuation in percentile level during the age period studied and can be conceived as indices of stability and are related to age at peak height velocity (APHV) and peak height velocity (PHV), respectively. Relationships between somatic characteristics, physical performance, and APHV have been studied in a sample of 173 Flemish boys, measured yearly between +/- 13 and +/- 18 years and again as adults at 30 years of age. The sample was divided into three contrasting maturity categories based on the APHV. There are consistent differences among boys of contrasting maturity status during adolescence in body weight, skeletal lengths and breadths, circumferences, and skinfolds on the trunk. There are no differences in skinfolds on the extremities. None of the differences in somatic dimensions and ratios among the three contrasting maturity groups are significant at 30 years of age except those for subscapular skinfold and the trunk/extremity skinfold ratio. During adolescence, speed of limb movement, explosive strength and static strength are negatively related to APHV; thus, early maturers performed better than late maturers. However, between late adolescence and adulthood (30 years), the late maturers not only caught up to the early maturers, but there were significant differences for explosive strength and functional strength in favor of late maturers. Finally, age-specific tracking, using inter-age correlations, of adult health- and performance-related fitness scores were investigated. In addition, the independent contribution of adolescent physical characteristics to the explanation of adult fitness scores was also studied. Tracking between age 13 and age 30 years was moderately high (46% of variance explained) for flexibility, low to moderate (between 19% and 27% of variance explained) for the other fitness parameters and low for pulse recovery and static strength (7% to 11% of variance explained). Between age 18 and age 30 years the tracking was high for flexibility, moderately high for explosive and static strength, and moderate for the other fitness parameters except for pulse recovery. The amount of variance of adult fitness levels explained increased significantly when other characteristics observed during adolescence entered the regressions or discriminant functions.
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