Association of biological maturation with the development of motor competence in Austrian middle school students—a 3-year observational study

Clemens Drenowatz, Klaus Greier


Background: Motor competence is an important component in the facilitation of an active lifestyle and is influenced by environmental and biological constraints. Biological maturation has been shown to affect participation in various forms of physical activity (PA) and sports but information on the association with motor competence and motor development remains limited.
Methods: A total of 212 (59% male) Austrian middle school students (10.8±0.5 years) were followed over 3 years. Participants completed annual anthropometric measurements along with the German motor test (Deutscher Motorik Test, DMT6-18) during a physical education lesson. Biological maturation was determined based on the estimated age at peak height velocity (APHV), as this has been shown to coincide with the onset of puberty.
Results: Earlier maturation was associated with higher body weight and lower motor competence in boys and girls. Cross-sectional associations between motor competence and biological maturation, however, were limited after adjusting for body weight. Longitudinal results showed a more pronounced weight gain and impaired development of motor competence late maturing boys. In girls, weight gain was more pronounced with early maturation but this did not affect the development of motor competence. It was further shown that endurance capacity already declined in this cohort while agility increased.
Conclusions: The results of this study confirm the previously reported association between biological maturation and body weight, which also affects motor competence. Nevertheless, late maturing boys appear to be at a greater risk for excess weight gain, which negatively affects the development of motor competence during early adolescence. In girls, the association between weight change and development of motor competence was less clear. Of additional concern is the decline in cardiorespiratory fitness already during early adolescence as low cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with an increased risk for various chronic diseases later in life.