On kidsdata.org, indicators of physical fitness include the percentage of students meeting all 6 of California's fitness standards by grade level (5th, 7th, and 9th), grade level and gender, and grade level and race/ethnicity. The percentage meeting these fitness standards is measured through the California Physical Fitness Test, which is administered annually to public school children in grades 5, 7, and 9. The 6 areas of fitness measured include: upper body strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, and trunk strength. Students must meet minimum fitness levels in each area to pass this state test.
Note: Data for 2011 and 2012 may not be comparable with data for earlier years because new standards were applied to the aerobic capacity and body composition fitness areas.
Regular physical activity helps muscle development, bone health, and heart health. Children who regularly exercise also tend to have lower levels of depression and anxiety, tend to do better in school, and are more likely to carry their healthy lifestyle into adulthood (1, 2, 3). Physical activity is linked to weight control and reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as some cancers (4). (Information on overweight/obese youth in California is available in kidsdata.org’s Weight topic)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents participate in one hour or more of exercise every day (5). Exercise should include aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking or running), muscle strengthening (e.g., push-ups), and bone strengthening activities (e.g., jumping rope). However, according to a 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 82% of adolescents do not get the recommended amount of exercise (6).
Find more information and research about physical fitness in kidsdata.org's Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Physical activity and the health of young people. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/physicalactivity/pdf/facts.pdf
2. Singh, A., et al. (2012). Physical activity and performance at school: A systematic review of the literature including a methodological quality assessment. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 166(1), 49-55.
Retrieved from: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1107683
3. Child Trends. (2010). Vigorous physical activity by youth. Retrieved from: www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/134
4. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Physical activity for a healthy weight. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html
5. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). How much physical activity do children need? Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html.
6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. Retrieved from: http://healthypeople.gov/2020/LHI/nutrition.aspx.
Physical fitness and weight are closely linked. California has been a leader in advancing policies to combat childhood overweight and obesity, from banning soft drinks and unhealthful food in schools to requiring nutrition labeling in chain restaurants (1). Yet the state, along with other states, continues to battle an overweight/obesity epidemic among children and its efforts at ensuring physical activity in schools are falling short, particularly in elementary schools and for low-income students and those in racial/ethnic groups at high risk for overweight and obesity (2, 3, 4). Obesity rates are greater for African American/Black and Latino youth as compared to white and Asian American youth (5). Improving fitness requires equitable access to safe places to play and built environments that encourage movement and physical activity both in schools and communities (6, 7).
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence children’s fitness include:
- Funding and facilitating physical education at school (6, 7)
- Improving the quantity and quality of physical education (2, 3, 4)
- Supporting and planning for a built environment in schools and communities that encourages walking, bicycling, and outdoor play (6, 7)
- Supporting public education efforts to promote healthful eating and active living (6)
- Supporting walk to school and Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs (8)
For more policy ideas about promoting fitness and healthy weight among children, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or California Project LEAN, Action for Healthy Kids, and the ENACT Local Policy Database. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Weight, Free/Reduced Price School Meals, and Nutrition/Breakfast.
Sources for this narrative:
1. California Center for Public Health Advocacy. (n.d.). State legislation. Retrieved from: http://www.publichealthadvocacy.org/legislation.html
2. Sanchez-Vaznaugh, E. V., et al. (2012). Physical education policy compliance and children’s physical fitness. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 42(5), 452-459. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22516484
3. California Endowment. (2008). Physical Education Matters. Retrieved from: http://tcenews.calendow.org/archives/california-physical-education
4. California Center for Public Health Advocacy. (n.d.). Schools fail to meet physical education mandates. Retrieved from: http://www.publichealthadvocacy.org/droppingtheball.html
5. Huh, D., et al. (2012). Female overweight and obesity in adolescent development trends and ethnic differences in prevalence, incidence, and remission, Journal of Youth Adolescence, 41(1). 76-85. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3413457/
6. California Department of Public Health, California Obesity Prevention Program. (2010). 2010 California obesity prevention plan: A vision for tomorrow, strategic actions for today. Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/COPP/Documents/COPP-ObesityPreventionPlan-2010.pdf.pdf
7. Lanza, A., et al. (2012). How the built environment contributes to the adolescent obesity epidemic: A multifaceted approach. Vanderbilt Research Journal, Vol. 8. Retrieved from: http://www.homiletic.net/index.php/vurj/article/view/3504
8. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2011). Action strategies for healthy communities. Retrieved from: http://www.leadershipforhealthycommunities.org/index.php/action-strategies-toolkitmenu-122/active-schools-toolkitmenu-130
In 2012, 25% of 5th graders in California public schools met all state fitness standards, same as the previous year. The percentages for 7th and 9th graders consistently are higher: 32% and 37%, respectively, in 2012. Figures vary widely at
the county and school district levels; for example, in 2012, the percentage of 5th graders meeting all fitness standards ranged from 10% to 42% among California counties.
Among racial/ethnic groups, Asian American, Filipino, white, and multiracial students more often meet fitness standards than Latino, African American/Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native students in California. Over the previous decade (1999-2010), the statewide percentage of students meeting all fitness standards generally increased for all racial/ethnic groups, grade levels, and for girls and boys.