California Healthline Daily Edition

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Fewer Than Half of Calif. Adolescents Meeting All Six State Fitness Goals

Despite achieving slight gains, fewer than 40% of California's fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students currently are meeting all six criteria for statewide fitness goals, according to a new report, the Torrance Daily Breeze reports.

On Monday, the California Department of Education released its latest "Fitnessgram" report showing results from six physical fitness tests administered to about 1.4 million students in fifth, seventh and ninth grade.

The program tested students on abdominal strength, aerobic capacity, body composition, flexibility, trunk strength and upper body strength (Pamer, Torrance Daily Breeze, 11/30).

Fitnessgram Findings

Tests conducted during the 2008-2009 school year found that more than half of the students met at least five of the six fitness criteria. This included:

Students that met all six fitness criteria included:

  • 29.1% of fifth graders;
  • 34.1% of seventh graders; and
  • 37.9% of ninth graders (Torrance Daily Breeze, 11/30).

Gradual Gains

Compared with last year's findings:

  • Fifth grade student scores increased by 0.6%;
  • Seventh grade student scores rose by 1.2%; and
  • Ninth grade student scores grew by 2.3% (Harrington, Contra Costa Times, 11/30).

The state has shown a gradual increase in adolescent fitness levels, with an average of 34% of middle and high school students meeting all six fitness goals in 2009, compared with about 32% in 2008, 29% in 2007 and 28% in 2006.

Officials say public awareness campaigns about fitness and nutrition might help account for the steady gains.

Persistent Gaps

As in previous years, the Fitnessgram report also found disparities in fitness levels among different socioeconomic and ethnic populations.

For example, students from higher-income suburban communities tended to score higher on the fitness tests compared with students from lower-income urban areas.

In addition, the report found that African-American students and Hispanic students on average scored lower on the fitness tests than their white and Asian classmates.

Officials said they hoped to address such disparities as part of their plan to close achievement gaps in schools (Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/1). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.