In announcing the results of statewide physical fitness tests of last year's fifth, seventh, and ninth graders in California public schools last year, O'Connell said "too many of our students are leading sedentary lives exacerbated by poor eating habits. This is a destructive trend that has resulted in an epidemic of childhood obesity and must be reversed."
"The 2006 test scores show a modest 1 percent gain in overall performance compared to last year’s results," O’Connell said. "We should be very concerned for our students’ health, their academic success, and the long-term effects this will have."
Click here for complete statewide and local results on the state Physical Fitness Test.
The goal of the California physical fitness test is for students to achieve the minimum fitness levels for six fitness areas: Aerobic Capacity, Body Composition, Abdominal Strength, Trunk Extension Strength, Upper Body Strength, and Flexibility.
In 2006, 25.6 percent of the students in grade five, 29.6 percent in grade seven, and 27.4 percent in grade nine achieved the fitness standards for all six areas of the test.
Over the last three years, scores have shown minimal improvement of 0.5 to 1.1 percent.
At James Logan, 990 freshman took the test; 39.2 achieved the fitness standards for all six areas of the test, but 60.8 percent didn't.
Logan students were weakest in the aerobic capacity tests, with 38.1 percent falling outside the "healthy fitness zone," or HFV. The test usually entails walking or running a mile.
Nearly 30 percent of last year's freshmen fell outside the HFV, meaning they were too fat, in the body composition test, calculated by calculating a ratio a student's height and weight.
An identical number were outside the HFV in terms of flexibility, measured through tests called the "back saver sit and reach," and the "shoulder stretch."
Just over 17 percent fell outside the HFV in upper body strength, measured through pull-ups and push-ups.
In terms of trunk extension strength, measured through the trunk lift test, in which the objective is to lift the upper body 12 inches off the floor using the muscles of the back and to hold the position for as long as possible, 12.8 percent of students performed outside the HFZ.
Logan students scored best in the abdominal strength tests; just 11.8 percent fell outside the healthy fitness zone in the curl-up test. The objective of this test is to complete as many curl-ups as possible, up to a maximum of 75, at a specified pace.
Being outside the HFZ could mean early death for many Logan students and others.
"We are deeply concerned that because of this trend today’s children may become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents," said Freny Mody, M.D., cardiologist and member of the American Heart Association Los Angeles County Board of Directors. "To fight this growing epidemic, the American Heart Association formed the Alliance for a Healthier Generation with community partners to stop the nationwide increase of childhood obesity and help our kids live longer and healthier lives."
Less than six in ten of the students across the three grades met the targeted performance standard in 2006 for aerobic capacity, considered the most important of the six areas tested. Recent research correlates good aerobic capacity with a reduction in many health problems. Conversely, there are serious health risks associated with physical inactivity.
State law requires school districts to administer a physical fitness test, designated by the State Board of Education, to all fifth, seventh, and ninth graders annually. The physical fitness test designated for California public school students is the FITNESSGRAM®, developed by The Cooper Institute.
A number of test options are provided so that most students can participate.
The physical fitness test was administered to 1,389,280 California students last Spring.
All public schools in California are required to report results of physical fitness testing annually in their school accountability report cards. Schools are also required to provide students with their individual results. However, no individual student information is reported on the Internet.
This is the 10th anniversary of the physical fitness test, and the seventh year for reporting physical fitness test results in California public schools.
"The message from these annual tests continues to be abundantly clear and it is imperative we get that message through to our young people. Being physically fit is not only healthier, but studies have shown it can lead to higher academic achievement," O’Connell said. "It is up to us to provide ample opportunities to get them moving and motivated. Schools have the responsibility for providing standards-based physical education instruction, families can participate in regular physical activities, and communities play multiple roles in meeting the physical activity needs of children and adults," he said.
State law requires that get 400 minutes of physical education every 10 school day for grades 7-12, half that for elementary students.
This year's state budget includes $500 million one-time bonus for physical, visual and performing arts education, and 40 million annually to hire credentialed K-8 physical education teachers.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has urged California schools to incorporate more physical activity and served as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports from 1990 to 1992, last year signed legislation making the food served in California schools the healthier by banning sodas and adding more fruits and vegetables.