Factors Associated With Persistently High Muscular Power From Childhood to Adulthood

Brooklyn J. Fraser; Leigh Blizzard; Verity Cleland; Michael D. Schmidt; Kylie J. Smith; Seana L. Gall; Terence Dwyer; Alison J. Venn; Costan G. Magnussen


Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020;52(1):49-55. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose: Child and adult muscular power have been shown to associate with contemporary cardiometabolic health. Muscular power typically persists (tracks) between childhood and adulthood. Few studies span childhood to adulthood, so we aimed to identify modifiable and environmental factors associated with the persistence or change in muscular power across the life course.

Methods: Prospective study examining 1938 participants who had their muscular power (standing long jump distance) measured in 1985 as children 7–15 yr old and again 20 yr later in adulthood (26–36 yr old). A selection of objectively measured anthropometric characteristics (adiposity and fat-free mass), cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), self-reported physical activity, dietary (quality and fruit, vegetable, and protein intake), and sociodemographic data were available at both time points. Muscular power was separated into thirds, and participants were reported as having persistently low, decreasing, persistently moderate, increasing, or persistently high muscular power.

Results: Higher adiposity, lower physical activity, diet quality and socioeconomic status (SES) across the life course, and lower adult CRF were associated with persistently low muscular power. Lower adult protein intake and an increase in adiposity over time were associated with decreasing muscular power. An increase in fat-free mass was associated with a reduced probability of decreasing or persistently high muscular power and an increased probability of increasing muscular power. Higher adult fruit intake was associated with increasing muscular power. Lower adiposity across the life course, higher adult CRF and SES, and higher child protein intake were associated with persistently high muscular power.

Conclusion: Healthy weight, good CRF, greater protein intake, and high SES are important correlates of high muscular power maintained from childhood to adulthood.


The importance of muscular fitness in children and adults is increasingly highlighted in physical activity guidelines because of the associated independent health benefits.[1,2] Low muscular fitness associates with an increased risk of adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in adults.[3–6] Low muscular fitness in childhood is shown to associate with higher levels of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk factors, and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome and all-cause mortality in adulthood.[7–10] Given these health benefits, the maintenance of high muscular fitness levels from childhood to adulthood is important.

Jumping performance is a reliable measure of muscular power. Of interest is how it changes between childhood and adulthood. We have shown children with low muscular power to be four times more likely to maintain their low muscular power status into adulthood, compared with having high childhood muscular power.[11] We found 53% of those with low jumping performance relative to their peers in childhood maintained this to adulthood, whereas only 14% were able to develop a high level by adulthood.[11] Although correlates of muscular fitness have been identified,[12–16] there is limited evidence of longitudinal predictors of persistence or change in muscular power from childhood to adulthood. Longitudinal data can potentially provide important insights.[17] Given modifiable and sociodemographic factors are associated with childhood muscular fitness, these factors could influence muscular power across the life course. Identifying factors associated with persistence or change in muscular power could help inform intervention strategies aimed at promoting persistently high muscular power into adulthood.

No previous study has examined the association between a wide range of factors and the persistence or change in muscular power between childhood and adulthood. Using data from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health (CDAH) Study that collected data in childhood and again 20 yr later, we aimed to identify modifiable and environmental factors associated with persistence or change in muscular power.