Fitness Levels Decline as Texas Students Age

AUSTIN, TX -- Texas students become progressively less fit as they age, according to recently performed tests on 2.6 million Texas children.

The test, called Fitnessgram, was created by The Cooper Institute of Dallas and was given to Texas children in grades 3-12 this spring. The test measured body composition, aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and flexibility. The test was ordered by the Texas state legislature but was funded by $2.5 million in private donations, headed up by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of The Cooper Institute.

Preliminary results show that about 32 percent of third-grade girls and almost 28 percent of third-grade boys reached the Health Fitness Zone, which means they achieved a certain level on six tests with performance targets tied to a student’s age and gender. The tests include activities such as a one-mile run, curl-ups, push-ups, trunk lift, shoulder stretches and a skin-fold test.

By seventh grade, 21 percent of the girls and 17 percent of the boys met this achievement level. By 12th grade, 8 percent of the girls and about 9 percent of the boys met the health standards in all six tests.

The declining fitness levels correspond with the decreasing emphasis on physical education in upper grades, according to Cooper.

“I hope these results shock the state into reality and into action,” Cooper says. “We must immunize children against obesity while in elementary schools so that as they age, they are more likely to stay healthy and fit. By the time students graduate, they should be ready mentally and physically to achieve their dreams.”

Cooper says that governors from at least 12 other states have contacted him about doing the testing in their states. The tests were performed by teachers at each school who completed training in how to perform the tests.

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