The emergence of obesity, insulin resistance (IR), and type-2 diabetes (T2DM) in children requires a rational, effective public health response. Physical activity remains an important component of prevention and treatment for obesity, T2DM, and IR. Studies in adults show cardiovascular fitness (CVF) to be more important than obesity in predicting IR. We recently demonstrated that a school-based fitness intervention in children who were overweight can improve cardiovascular fitness, body composition, and insulin sensitivity, but it remains unclear whether accurate assessment of fitness could be performed at the school or outside of an exercise laboratory. The purpose of the study was to determine if a new methodology using measurement of cycling power could estimate cardiovascular aerobic fitness (as defined by maximum oxygen consumption; VO(2)max) in middle school children who were overweight. Thirty-five middle school children who were overweight (mean age 12 +/- 0.4 years) underwent testing on a power sensor- equipped Cycle Ops Indoor Cycle (IC), as well as body composition by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and VO(2)max by treadmill determination. Insulin sensitivity was also estimated by fasting glucose and insulin. Maximal heart rate (MHR) was determined during VO(2)max testing, and power produced at 80% of MHR was recorded. Spearman's rank correlation was performed to evaluate associations. Mean power determined on the IC at 80% of MHR was 129 +/- 77 watts, and average power at 80% MHR divided by total body weight (TBW) was 1.5 +/- 0.5. A significant correlation between watts/TBW was seen for VO(2)max (ml/kg/min) (p = 0.03), and significant negative correlation was seen between watts/TBW and fasting insulin (p < 0.05). In middle-school children who were overweight, there was a significant relationship between the power component of fitness and cardiovascular aerobic fitness (measured by VO(2)max). This more accessible and less intimidating field-based measure of power may prove useful in predicting changes in cardiovascular fitness. Thus, accurate assessment of childhood aerobic fitness may be achievable by measurement of power, possibly within the school environment at substantially less cost and effort than laboratory-based measurements.