Aerobic Capacity, Activity Levels and Daily Energy Expenditure in Male and Female Adolescents of the Kenyan Nandi Sub-Group

Alexander R. Gibson, Robert Ojiambo, Kenn Konstabel, Daniel E. Lieberman, John J. Reilly, John R. Speakman, Yannis P. Pitsiladis

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The relative importance of genetic and socio-cultural influences contributing to the success of east Africans in endurance athletics remains unknown in part because the pre-training phenotype of this population remains incompletely assessed. Here cardiopulmonary fitness, physical activity levels, distance travelled to school and daily energy expenditure in 15 habitually active male (13.9±1.6 years) and 15 habitually active female (13.9±1.2) adolescents from a rural Nandi primary school are assessed. Aerobic capacity (VO2max) was evaluated during two maximal discontinuous incremental exercise tests; physical activity using accelerometry combined with a global positioning system; and energy expenditure using the doubly labelled water method. The VO2max of the male and female adolescents were 73.9±5.7 ml. kg-1. min-1 and 61.5±6.3 ml. kg-1. min-1, respectively. Total time spent in sedentary, light, moderate and vigorous physical activities per day was 406±63 min (50% of total monitored time), 244±56 min (30%), 75±18 min (9%) and 82±30 min (10%). Average total daily distance travelled to and from school was 7.5±3.0 km (0.8-13.4 km). Mean daily energy expenditure, activity-induced energy expenditure and physical activity level was 12.2±3.4 MJ. day-1, 5.4±3.0 MJ. day-1 and 2.2±0.6. 70.6% of the variation in VO2max was explained by sex (partial R2 = 54.7%) and body mass index (partial R2 = 15.9%). Energy expenditure and physical activity variables did not predict variation in VO2max once sex had been accounted for. The highly active and energy-demanding lifestyle of rural Kenyan adolescents may account for their exceptional aerobic fitness and collectively prime them for later training and athletic success.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere66552
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2013


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