University students’ ethnicity-specific physical development and physical fitness rating study (case study of Central Russia)

PhD, Associate Professor V.Ya. Zhigalo1
Dr. Biol., Professor F.B. Litvin2
PhD, Associate Professor T.A. Bulavkina1
PhD, Associate Professor I.A. Dubogryzova1
PhD, Associate Professor O.N. Shkityr3
1Bryansk State of Engineering and Technology University, Bryansk
2Smolensk State Academy of Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism, Smolensk
3Bryansk State University named after Ivan G. Petrovsky, Bryansk

Keywords: ethnic group, body composition, university students, physical development, physical fitness.

Background. Health protection and improvement models are given a special priority by the academic education system among the other social progress and well-being securing factors. Modern multiethnic student communities with the inflows of people from all over the world are exposed to the natural age- and adaptation-specific mental and emotional stressors, whilst the non-resident ethnic groups have to face in addition a variety of climatic/ geographic and environmental challenges particularly stressful for their chrono-adaptation bodily mechanisms [1, 3]. Anthropometric, physical and mental progress studies on an ethnicity- and origin-specific basis may contribute to the efforts to put on a sound theoretical and practical basis the academic health protection, performance improvements and disease prevention services [2].

Objective of the study was to rate the 18-25 year-olds physical development versus physical fitness progresses on an ethnicity/ origin specific basis.

Methods and structure of the study. We sampled for the study (run in January to February 2019) the 1-2-year students (n=90) of Bryansk State of Engineering and Technology University and Petrovsky Bryansk State University and split them up the into the following provisional ethnic groups: Slavs (from the Bryansk, Kaluga, Oryol, Smolensk and Tula regions, n=27), Asians (Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan nationals, n=34) and Africans (from Congo, Mali, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire, n=29).

The physical development was rated by the common tests including body mass and length, chest size (on inhale, exhale and pause)/ chest excursion tests; Erismann index, ponderal index and arm strength tests. We used a Tanita system to rate body composition; and DK-50 dynamometer for the carpal strength tests. The physical fitness was tested by the arm strength rating pull-ups; speed-strength rating standing long jump; trunk strength rating 1-min sit-ups; coordination and speed qualities rating 3x10m shuttle sprint; and the flexibility rating sitting front lean (on a gymnastic bench) tests.

Results and discussion. The body mass and composition tests found the Slav and Asian group differences being statistically insignificant, whilst the African group body mass was 11.3% and 10.3% lower than that in the Slav and Asian groups, respectively (р<0.05): see Table 1 hereunder.

Table 1. Ethnic group specific physical development and physical fitness test rates (M±m)


Ethnic groups










Physical development

Body length, cm





Body mass, kg




1:3; 2:3

Body mass index, BMI





Right hand strength, kg




1:3; 2:3

Left hand strength, kg





Erismann index, points




1:3; 2:3

Arm strength index, points




1:2; 1:3

Ponderal index, points





Body composition

Free fat




1:3; 2:3

Free water





Muscle mass





Bone mass





Visceral fat rate





Physical fitness

3х10m shuttle sprint, s




1:2; 1:3

Standing long jump, cm




1:3; 2:3

1-min sit-ups, count





Pull-ups test, count




1:3; 2:3

The BMI was found to vary within the upper range of the norm for Slavs and Asians and lower range of the norm for Africans. The body composition was found dependent on the climatic/ geographic living conditions in the countries of origin. Thus the Africans were tested with the significantly lower fat masses – 62.3% and 16.8% lower than in the Slav and Asian groups, respectively (p <0.05); and minimal visceral fat masses – 86.5% and 31.8% lower than in the Asian and Slav groups, respectively (p <0.05), with the differences explainable by the traditional ethnicity- and origin-specific diets and preferences. Thus the daily calorific value of an Asian diet was found 11.2% and 47.7% higher than the Asian and Slav diets, respectively (p <0.05). The relatively high calorific value of the African diet may be indirectly indicative of the stressful functionality that claims a higher energy cost coverable by the food macroergs.

The climatic/ geographic differences of the countries of origin indirectly manifested themselves in the intergroup body water mass (BWM) differences. Thus the African group BWM was tested 9.0% (p <0.05) and 4.0% (p> 0.05) higher than the Slav and Asian group BWMs. The muscle mass was the highest in the Asian group: 7.3% and 8.1% higher than in the Slav and African groups, respectively (p> 0.05); whilst the bone mass index in the African group was 20.3% and 32.4% higher than in the Asian and Slav groups, respectively (p <0.05). The carpal strength tests found maximums in the right-hand strength in the Asian and left-hand strength in the Slav groups; with the Asian group left-hand strength tested 10.0% and 18.9% higher than in the Slav and African groups, respectively (p <0.05). The Slav group right hand strength was tested 10.3% and 40.7% higher than in the Asian and African groups, respectively (p <0.05). The arm strength index was the highest in the Slav group (63±3%) followed by the Asian group arm strength index (57±3%) and African group arm strength index (54±2%) (p <0.05). It should be mentioned that the tests found virtually no differences in the right/ hand arm strength rates in the Asian and African groups.

The physical fitness test rates were the highest in the Slavs group followed by the moderately-rated Asian group and lowest-rated African group. The difference may be due to, among other things, the challenges of the group adaptation to the unusual climatic/ geographic and social environments. Moreover, the differences were minimal in the strength and speed-strength tests. Thus in the pull-ups tests the Slavs were 43.5% and 153.2% better than the Asians and Africans, respectively (p <0.05). In the endurance rating 1-min sit-ups test, the Slavs were 9.7% and by 23.9% better than the Asians and Africans, respectively (p <0.05). In the coordination qualities rating test, the Africans were 13.7% and 11.9% lower than the Slavs and Asians, respectively (p <0.05). And the flexibility tests found no meaningful intergroup differences with a somewhat better progress trend in the African group.

Conclusion. The study data and analysis found a few statistically significant ethnic-group-specific differences in the 18-25 year-olds’ physical development and physical fitness test rates.


  1. Aghajanyan N.A., Radysh I.V., Ignatyev L.I. Seasonal changes in body's adaptive reactions. Vestnik RUDN, ser. «Meditsina», 2012. no.7. pp. 26­27.
  2. Sakibaev K.Sh., Nikityuk D.B., Alekseeva N.T., Klochkova S.V., Tashmatova N.M. BMI characteristics in men of different ages and somatotypes. Zhurnal anatomii i gistopatologii. 2018. v. 7. no.3. pp. 51­55.
  3. Shastun S.A., Blagonravov M.L., Reinbakh O.A., Zakariadze N.V., Amaeva A.M. Seasonal rhythms and quality of life of students from various climatogeographic regions. Vestnik RUDN, ser. «Meditsina», 2012. no.7. pp. 228­-230.

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Objective of the study was to identify the levels of physical development and physical fitness of the 18-25 year-old students trained in different climatic geographic conditions.

Methods and structure of the study. The body component composition was determined using the impedance method. The level of physical development was evaluated based on the generally accepted parameters. The physical fitness rates were determined in the "field" tests.

Results of the study. The study showed that it is the Africans who have the greatest tension of chronoadaptation. They differ by the statistically significantly low body mass rates, low free and visceral fat mass rates, and high free water contents. Their physical development is characterized by the statistically low rates of body length, wrist dynamometry, chest circumferences at inhalation and exhalation, as well as low strength rates of physique with regard to EI. As opposed to the Slavs and Asians, the Africans have the weakest strength, speed-strength and coordination abilities. The Asians are distinguished by the significantly high muscle mass rates, visceral fat mass rates, and EI. The Slavs have the highest rates in terms of body length, free fat contents, left and right hand dynamometry, EI, as well as the strongest strength, speed-strength and coordination abilities.

Conclusion. In the Slavs and Asians, the average body mass rate does not differ statistically significantly. Secular changes in the somatic status of young males residing in different areas vary due to the effects of environmental factors.