More than two decades after its last update, the physical fitness test many of us did in school is getting a makeover. Just in time for the new school year, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) announced that the former Physical Fitness Test is now the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, and that it will focus primarily on assessing health versus athleticism for America’s youth.
Since less than one in five youth get the exercise they need and high rates of childhood obesity are sweeping the nation, PCFSN and its partners recognize the importance of motivating children to get active, whether through sports or physical activity on the playground, in the park or in the backyard. Research shows nearly one in three children are overweight and one in six are considered obese. These numbers can have a major effect as youth grow into adults. Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
As a school district administrator in one of the largest school districts in the country, the move from recognizing athletic performance to health-based standards is a crucial step forward. These standards provide a guide for what a healthy student should be able to do based on age and gender. They emphasize personal fitness goals and minimize comparisons between children. It isn’t about who is the fastest or the strongest. It is about healthy kids and lifelong physical activity.
Since 1966, the Youth Fitness Test has been used to assess physical fitness. The updated program will now provide training and resources to schools for assessing, tracking and recognizing youth health-related fitness. Support available to all schools includes Web-based access to test protocol, standards for testing, calculators for aerobic capacity and body composition (BMI), promotion of the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+), online training, school recognition programs and more. Schools and districts can also purchase additional resources, such as data management, reporting software and testing aids, to enhance the program.
Changes to the Presidential Youth Fitness Program were developed in partnership with experts in health promotion and youth fitness including the Amateur Athletic Union, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Cooper Institute.
To learn more about the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, visit www.residential youthfitnessprogram.org. This article appears on behalf of the President’s Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, which resides within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
By: Dr. Jayne Greenberg, district director of physical education and health literacy for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Fla.) and President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Council Member