An overview of physical growth and maturation
An understanding of physical growth and maturation is relevant to many disciplines, including exercise and sport science, anthropology, human biology, medicine, psychology and education. Growth and maturation is governed by a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors. There is increasing evidence that physical activity plays an important role in normal growth, development, health and well-being of children and youth, however, caution is required in the activity setting so that growth and maturation is not jeopardised. To appreciate the impact of physical activity and/or exercise on growth and maturation, a thorough understanding of the general principles of auxology is useful. Following an introduction to terminology, an overview of physical growth and development is provided in the context of morphological changes. Detailed information is provided regarding individual variability in growth and development along with sexual dimorphism. A small degree of sexual dimorphism exists at birth however striking differences develop during the pubertal years. Sexual dimorphism in body composition is largely regulated by endocrine factors with critical roles played by growth hormone and gonadal steroids.
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