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- Definition: Percent of public school students in grades 5, 7, and 9 meeting 6 of 6 fitness standards, by race/ethnicity (e.g., in 2013, 20.9% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 5th graders in California public schools met all fitness standards).
- Data Source: California Dept. of Education, Physical Fitness Testing Research Files. Accessed at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/pf/pftresearch.asp (Jan. 2014).
- Footnote: In order to meet fitness standards, children must score in the "Healthy Fitness Zone" on 6 out of 6 fitness tests (for more information, see "Measures of Physical Fitness" below). Data for 2011-2013 may not be comparable with data for earlier years because new standards were applied to the aerobic capacity and body composition fitness areas. LNE (Low Number Event) refers to data that have been suppressed because fewer than 20 students in a racial/ethnic group were administered or met all 6 standards. N/A means that data are not available. Years presented are the final year of a school year (e.g., 2012-2013 is shown as 2013). Data are not available for the year 2000.
- Physical Fitness
- Children Drinking One or More Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Per Day
- Children Who Ate Fast Food Two or More Times in the Past Week, by Age Group
- Children Who Eat Five or More Servings of Fruits/Vegetables Daily, by Age Group
- Students Who Ate Breakfast in Past Day, by Grade Level
- Why This Topic Is Important
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: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=vigorous-physical-activity-by-youth
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.
- 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.
Note: Data for 2011-2013 may not be comparable with data for earlier years because new standards were applied to the aerobic capacity and body composition fitness areas.
- How Children Are Faring
In 2013, 26% of 5th graders in California public schools met all state fitness standards, similar to 2011 and 2012. The percentages for 7th and 9th graders were consistently higher: 32% and 37%, respectively, in 2013. Figures vary widely at the county and school district levels. For example, in 2013, the percentage of 5th graders meeting all fitness standards ranged from 15% 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. 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.
- Policy Implications
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:
- Ensuring funding for physical education (PE) in schools and ensuring that schools adopt policies requiring daily PE, elementary school recess, and physical activity opportunities before, during, and after school (2, 3, 6)
- 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, which includes 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day for youth (6, 8)
- Supporting walk to school and Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs, such as bike paths and “walking school bus” 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.
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://www.calendow.org/uploadedFiles/physical_education_matters.pdf
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
- Websites with Related Information
- Action for Healthy Kids
- Active Living Research, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- California Center for Public Health Advocacy
- California Project LEAN, California Department of Public Health & Public Health Institute
- Let’s Move: America's Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids
- Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Physical Activity and Children and Adolescents Knowledge Path, Maternal and Child Health Library at Georgetown University
- The National Physical Activity Plan
- The Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, Prevention Institute
- Key Reports
- Adolescent Physical Education and Physical Activity in California, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
- Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Disparities in Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors among US Children and Adolescents: Prevalence, Correlates and Intervention Implications, Journal of Public Health Policy
- High Levels of Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behavior among U.S. Immigrant Children and Adolescents, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
- Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity from Ages 9 to 15 Years, Journal of the American Medical Association
- Physical Education Matters, California Endowment, San Diego State University and the Active Living Research Program, UCLA School of Public Health’s Center to Eliminate Health Disparities and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy
- Physical Education Research for Kids, California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness
- Policies and Standards for Promoting Physical Activity in After-School Programs, Active Living Research
- Promoting Physical Activity in Children and Youth, American Heart Association
- Research Brief: Physical Inactivity in U.S. Adolescents: Family, Neighborhood, and Individual Factors, Child Trends
- County/Regional Reports
- Blueprint for Prevention of Childhood Obesity: A Call to Action, Healthy Communities San Mateo County
- Changing the Odds for Our Children: Santa Clara County Children's Agenda, Kids in Common
- Children's Report Card: Sacramento County Children's Coalition
- Kern County Report Card, Kern County Network for Children
- Santa Barbara County Children's Scorecard, Santa Barbara County KIDS Network
- Solano County Children's Report Card, Children's Network
- Tulare County Children’s Report Card 2010, Children's Services Network