Health & Fitness

Fitnessgram a tool to help fight child obesity

Childhood and adolescent obesity is an epidemic in the United States. The latest statistics from the U.S. Surgeon General are sobering. They show that more than 12.5 million children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 are overweight. And these numbers are on the rise.

As a result, growing numbers of children and teens are at increased risk for diseases traditionally seen only in adults, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Although physical educators alone cannot be expected to solve the obesity problem, they can be part of the solution. The unique role that good physical education programs play is to teach the importance of health-related fitness.

A physical educator's role is to show students how to be lifelong movers and learners. For students to reach that goal, they need to learn about the health-related components of fitness: aerobic capacity, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition.

Along with many new and innovative ways to promote healthy futures in our youth, the Wichita school district's physical education program has adopted an assessment tool called Fitnessgram.

Fitnessgram provides an effective, efficient and valid way to measure students' health and fitness levels. It allows teachers to produce individual reports for each student in a class. The reports provide feedback on whether a child has achieved the standards for their own personal fitness criteria. These standards are age- and gender-specific and are established on how fit children need to be for good health.

While some fitness assessment programs emphasize the attainment of high levels of performance, Fitnessgram objectives are associated with good health and improved function to benefit all children.

These individualized tests are administered by teachers with structured guidelines that allow them to be valid. The tests can be performed with little to no equipment required. The instructions for each test, as well as the results, are easily comprehended by students.

Some examples for each test are as follows:

* For cardiovascular endurance, the child runs back and forth across a 20-meter space at a specified pace that gets faster each minute. Each 20-meter link is then recorded for assessment.

* Abdominal strength and endurance is measured by having the student complete as many curl-ups as possible, up to a maximum of 75, at a specified pace.

* Flexibility is measured by a having the student lie face down on the floor and use their lower back muscles to lift their upper body off the floor; the distance from floor to chin is measured while the student holds the pose.

Fitnessgram should be useful in helping parents understand their children's needs so they can help them develop and stick to a plan of regular physical activity, one that's focused on enjoyable activities the child can do throughout his or her life.

For more information about Fitnessgram, visit