October 23, 2013
California Students Make Slight Gains in Physical Fitness
SANTA ANA—California school kids made slight gains this year in two of the most important indicators of health and physical fitness, and held relatively steady overall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.
About 1.34 million fifth, seventh, and ninth graders took the FITNESSGRAM® this year (Table 1), nearly 94 percent of students enrolled in those grades in public schools statewide. Students in grades five and seven improved in aerobic capacity and body composition, two of the six areas that are assessed annually and considered among the most important gauges of health. Students in grade nine showed improvement in aerobic capacity, but dipped a tenth of a percentage point in body composition (Table 2).
Overall, about 26 percent of fifth graders, 32 percent of seventh graders and 37 percent of ninth graders scored in the "Healthy Fitness Zone" for all six areas (Table 4). That reflects slight gains for grades five and seven since last year and no change for grade nine.
"The simple fact is that healthy kids learn better," Torlakson said. "I'm pleased to see the slow shift toward better health continue, but when only about a third of our students are physically fit, we are nowhere near the end of this effort. To help them succeed in school and in life, California's young people need more access to physical activity, fresh, healthy food, and clean water."
Joining Torlakson at the announcement at John Muir Fundamental Elementary School were Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares, Dr. Marc Lerner, Medical Officer for the Orange County Department of Education, Santa Ana Unified School District trustee Dr. Audrey Yamagata-Noji and principal Donna Kertman.
Torlakson, a longtime teacher and cross-country coach, launched his Team California for Healthy Kids initiative shortly after taking office to further these goals. The initiative brings together educators, community leaders, athletes, and other celebrities to help schools offer healthy choices to students.
The primary goal of FITNESSGRAM® is to assist students in establishing lifetime habits of regular physical activity. The FITNESSGRAM® is composed of the following six fitness areas, with a number of test options provided for most areas: aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength, and flexibility. The 2012–13 physical fitness results for schools, school districts, counties, and the state are available on the Physical Fitness Test Results page. For additional information about the Physical Fitness Test, please go to the California Department of Education Physical Fitness Test Web page.