Students Meeting All Fitness Standards, by Race/Ethnicity and Grade Level
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Learn More About Physical Fitness

Measures of Physical Fitness on Kidsdata.org
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.

Public school staff reports of the extent to which their school provides opportunities for physical education and activity and the number of students at their school who are healthy and physically fit are also available.
Physical Fitness
Nutrition
Weight
Why This Topic Is Important

Physical activity provides an array of benefits. Research has shown that regular exercise among young people is associated with improvements in muscle development, bone strength, heart health, mental health, and academic performance (1, 2, 3). Children who regularly exercise also are at lower risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and they are more likely to carry their active lifestyle into adulthood (1, 3). (Information on overweight/obese youth in California is available in kidsdata.org’s Weight topic.)

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children and adolescents participate in moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least 60 minutes every day (1). 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 2014 report, only about one quarter of youth nationwide get the recommended amount of exercise (1).

Find more information and research about physical fitness in kidsdata.org's Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Physical Activity Plan. (2014). The 2014 United States report card on physical activity for children and youth. Retrieved from: https://www.informz.net/acsm/data/images/NationalReportCard_longform_final%20for%20web%282%29.pdf


2.  Castelli, D. M., et al. (2015). Active education: Growing evidence on physical activity and academic performance. Active Living Research. Retrieved from: http://activelivingresearch.org/ActiveEducationBrief

3.  Child Trends Databank. (2014). Vigorous physical activity by youth. Retrieved from:
http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=vigorous-physical-activity-by-youth
How Children Are Faring
In 2014, 27% of 5th graders in California public schools met all state fitness standards, a slight increase since 2011. The percentages for 7th and 9th graders have been consistently higher: 33% and 38%, respectively, in 2014. Figures vary widely at the county and school district levels. For example, in 2014, the percentage of 5th graders meeting all fitness standards ranged from 12% to 57% among California counties.

Higher percentages of Asian American, Filipino, white, and multiracial students meet fitness standards than Latino, African American/Black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native students in California.

In 2011-13, 63% of public school staff at California elementary, middle, high school, K-12, and non-traditional schools reported that "nearly all" or "most" students at their school were healthy and physically fit. Among school types, California middle school staff were the most likely to report that their students had access to "a lot" of physical education and activity opportunities.


Policy Implications

Physical fitness is linked to improved health and academic performance, and it plays a key role in helping young people achieve and maintain a healthy weight (1, 2). California has been a leader in advancing policies to combat childhood obesity and overweight, and while progress has been made in recent years, the state, along with other states, continues to battle an overweight/obesity epidemic among children (3). One ongoing area for improvement is ensuring that schools meet state physical education requirements (4). Research has shown that low-income, Latino, and African American students are more likely to attend schools that are not compliant with physical education mandates than white and higher-income students (4). Improving youth fitness also requires equitable access to safe places to play and built environments that encourage movement and physical activity, both in schools and communities (5, 6).

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could improve children’s physical activity include:

For more policy ideas about promoting physical activity among children, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, Active Living Research, or Action for Healthy Kids. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Weight and Nutrition

Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Physical Activity Plan. (2014). The 2014 United States report card on physical activity for children and youth. Retrieved from: https://www.informz.net/acsm/data/images/NationalReportCard_longform_final%20for%20web%282%29.pdf

2.  Castelli, D. M., et al. (2015). Active education: Growing evidence on physical activity and academic performance. Active Living Research. Retrieved from: http://activelivingresearch.org/ActiveEducationBrief

3.  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2015). California: State reports decline in rates of overweight and obesity for grades 5, 7, and 9. Signs of Progress on Childhood Obesity Series. Retrieved from: http://www.rwjf.org/en/about-rwjf/newsroom/newsroom-content/2013/07/california--signs-of-progress.html

4.  Sanchez-Vaznaugh, E. V., et al. (2013). When school districts fail to comply with state physical education laws, the fitness of California’s children lags: A policy brief. Retrieved from: http://activelivingresearch.org/files/PolicyBrief_PEPolicyCali.pdf

5.  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

6.  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

7.  California Department of Education. (2014). Team California for Healthy Kids-Physical activity. Retrieved from: http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/pe/tchk-pe.asp

8.  Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (n.d.). The state of obesity: Physical activity before, during and after school. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/physical-activity-in-school/

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Physical Fitness