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. While the rise in obesity
may be leveling off overall, significant disparities persist by
race/ethnicity and income. Obesity rates are greater for low-income
youth compared to more affluent youth—particularly among boys—and for
African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino youth as compared to white and Asian American youth. (2)
Reducing childhood obesity and improving fitness requires equitable
access to safe places to play, affordable healthful foods and beverages,
and less access to high-calorie foods and sugar-sweetened drinks. (3,
4) Public policy can make a difference by changing the environment in
which children make food choices, live, and play.
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence children’s weight and fitness include:
- Continuing to enforce and extend legislation that restricts
sales of unhealthful food and drinks in schools; increases the
availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and water in schools; and
improves the nutritional quality of other foods and drinks sold at
school (1, 3, 4)
- Funding and facilitating physical education at school (3, 4)
- Supporting and planning for a built environment in schools and
communities that encourages walking, bicycling, and outdoor play (3, 4)
- Targeting anti-obesity efforts in a way that
addresses racial/ethnic and income disparities, including increasing
access to affordable healthful food (2)
- Promoting greater school and student participation in the School
Breakfast Program, as eating a healthful breakfast can help regulate
food consumption throughout the day, increase intake of micronutrients,
and decrease obesity (5)
- Supporting public education efforts to promote healthful eating and active living (3)
For more policy ideas about promoting healthy weight and fitness
among children, see the Research & Links section on this page or California Project LEAN, Action for Healthy Kids, and the ENACT Local Policy Database. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Free/Reduced Price School Meals and Nutrition/Breakfast.
Sources for this narrative:
1. California Center for Public Health Advocacy. (n.d.). Legislative successes. Retrieved from: http://publichealthadvocacy.org/legislative_success.html
2. Babey, et al. (2010). Income disparities in obesity trends among California adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 100(11), 2149-2155. Retrieved from: http://www.calendow.org/uploadedFiles/Publications/Publications_Stories/4146_income_disparities_obesity_trends.pdf
3. 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
4. Ebbeling, et al. (2002). Childhood obesity: Public health crisis, common sense cure. The Lancet, 360, 473-482. Retrieved from: http://www.commercialalert.org/childhoodobesity.pdf
5. California Food Policy Advocates. (2010). The benefits of breakfast: Health & academics. Retrieved from: http://www.breakfastfirst.org/pdfs/HealthAndAcademicBenefits.pdf
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.