Only 31 percent of California schoolchildren post healthy scores in all six areas of the latest Physical Fitness Test, and the Lake Elsinore Unified School District is in line with the poor showing, according to the 2010-11 California Physical Fitness Report released last week by the state.
"(The) results are clear: when only 31 percent of children are physically fit, that's a public health challenge we can't wait to address," said Tom Torlakson, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The 2011 Physical Fitness Test was administered to 1.34 million California students representing 93 percent of pupils enrolled in fifth, seventh, and ninth grades. Students were tested in six areas: Aerobic Capacity, Body Composition, Abdominal Strength, Trunk Extension Strength, Upper Body Strength and Flexibility.
In the LEUSD, only 20.8 percent of fifth graders, 36.2 percent of seventh graders and 32.7 percent of ninth graders posted healthy scores in all six areas.
Statewide the numbers were similar: 25.2 percent of fifth graders, 32 percent of seventh graders and 36.8 percent of ninth graders posted healthy scores in all six areas.
To score in the “Healthy Fitness Score,” the test requires, for instance, that a 5’6”, 150-pound, 15-year-old ninth-grade boy run a mile within nine minutes, perform at least 16 push-ups, and do at least 24 curl-ups.
In the LEUSD, the data show fitness is on the decline. were slightly better, revealing that 24.1 percent of students in grade five, 45.2 percent in grade seven, and 36.3 percent in grade nine achieved healthy results in all six scoring areas.
While aerobic capacity is an indicator of physical fitness, body composition is perhaps the most important indicator of who will develop future health problems, Torlakson stated. Statewide, the results show 34.1 percent of grade five students, 30.3 percent of grade seven students, and 25.0 percent of grade nine students are categorized as “High Risk” in body composition scoring.
Again, the LEUSD fell in line with state averages. Of those district students categorized as “High Risk” in body composition scoring, 34.2 percent of fifth graders, 33.4 percent of seventh graders, and 25 percent of ninth graders didn’t meet standards.
Many scholarly studies point out that lack of physical fitness in American schoolchildren is not necessarily the fault of the education system.
For example, in December 2010, researchers at the University of Michigan released a study that found lifestyle is “feeding the childhood obesity trend.” Diet and sedentary activities like watching television and playing video games are the biggest reasons kids aren’t as fit as they once were, the study revealed.
The findings are not surprising. LEUSD spokesman Mark Dennis said poor physical fitness is a trend, and it goes beyond what happens in the classroom.
“It is a reflection of increasing commercial and technological distractions that compete with a child’s physical activity and play time,” he said.
The district would like to see more PE time while kids are in school, but the current economic climate makes that tough, Dennis said.
“State budget cuts have continuously put the squeeze on PE time in order to maintain mandatory instruction time in the classroom,” he said.
In the meantime, parents can follow the rule being promoted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which recommends kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day.
To learn more about how to make physical fitness a part of your child’s life, click here.