Fitness & Health

Keeping Texas in shape

It was in March 2007 that the State of Texas first announced that FitnessGram had been selected as the state-wide assessment programme that was to be intoduced to almost two and a half million school students aged eight to eighteen.

healthy-exerciseJeff Kloster, the Association Commissioner of Health and Safety with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), said at the time “We are excited about moving forward to provide this exceptional programme to the state’s schools,”

But just what is FitnessGram?

FitnessGram measures aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Students do not “pass” or “fail” tests, rather the tests determine a student’s overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate. The goal is for all students to achieve a “Healthy Fitness Zone” for each test, and the standards to reach the Healthy Fitness Zones are based on gender and age.

More than 8,000 public and private schools received the FitnessGram programme in the in preparation for the first physical fitness testing period in spring 2008, which acted as a baseline. Students were then tested 12 months later and the data collected was used to measure any improvements compared to existing data on students’ academic achievement levels, attendance levels, obesity levels, disciplinary problems and nutritional intake, such as whether or not students are eating at the school cafeteria rather than bringing their lunch from home.

The results have now been evaluated and show some quite amazing results. After just one year officials say Texas school kids are performing better on standardised tests and as fitness rates rose, absentee rates dropped and so did reports of discipline problems.

And there is a direct correlation between more cardiovascular activity and better grades. At the top performing schools – where at least 90 percent of the kids pass the state assessments tests – 80 percent of the students are fit. And at the poorest performing schools? Only 40 percent make the fitness grade.

Childhood obesity is a major problem in Texas and across the United States. In 2005, it was estimated that more than 66 percent of American adults were overweight, with almost 35 percent being obese, and more than 30 percent of children were overweight. It has been predicted that for every child born after the year 2000, one out of three Caucasians, one out of two Hispanics, and two out of five African Americans will become diabetic.

According to a recent Trust for America’s Health report, Texas ranks 12th among all states for the numbers of obese and overweight people. A 2007 report revealed that nearly two-thirds of the state’s adults are overweight or obese. It also showed that 39 percent of the state’s schoolchildren were overweight or at risk of being overweight.

This is a major development for HK and it is hoped that a similar scheme could be adopted in schools throughout the UK and discussions have already been held as to how the existing model could be adapted for use here.

The Texas results have created a huge amount of interest in the States and one of its largest broadcasters CBS ran a report on its news channel.

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