California Education Code (EC) Section 60800 requires each local educational agency (LEA) in California to administer a physical fitness test annually to all students in grades five, seven, and nine. The State Board of Education designated the FITNESSGRAM as the required Physical Fitness Test (PFT) for California public schools. The FITNESSGRAM is a comprehensive health-related fitness test developed by The Cooper Institute. The primary goal of the FITNESSGRAM is to assist students in establishing lifelong habits of regular physical activity.
The PFT is administered between February 1 and May 31. EC Section 60800 requires that individual results be provided to students upon completion of the test. LEAs may also send each student’s PFT results to parents and guardians.
There are several ways to use the PFT results. Schools can use them to determine the fitness levels of their students and provide direction for physical education programs. Students can use the results to assess their individual levels of fitness and develop personal fitness programs of maintenance or improvement. Parents and guardians can use the results to help their child plan fitness activities to meet their individual needs. LEAs can also use the PFT results to monitor the fitness status of their students in grades five, seven, and nine.
The FITNESSGRAM is designed to test six key fitness areas that represent three broad components of fitness: (1) Aerobic Capacity, (2) Body Composition, and (3) Muscle Strength, Endurance, and Flexibility. This third component is further divided into four areas: (A) Abdominal Strength and Endurance, (B) Trunk Extensor Strength and Flexibility, (C) Upper Body Strength and Endurance, and (D) Flexibility.
1. Aerobic Capacity: Aerobic capacity refers to the maximum rate that oxygen is taken in and used by the body during exercise. Good aerobic capacity has been associated with a reduction in health problems. The performance task for aerobic capacity assess the capacity of the cardiorespiratory system by estimating VO2max or the maximum amount of oxygen, in milliliters, one uses in one minute per kilogram of body weight.
Test: One-Mile Run. The goal is to walk and/or run a distance of one mile at the fastest pace possible.
2. Body Composition: This is a key component of fitness because excessive fat content has been associated with health problems, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Body Mass Index (BMI). To calculate the BMI, a student’s weight and height measurements are inserted into a formula to produce an index of the relationship between weight and height. Although not as accurate an indicator of body composition as skinfold measurements, particularly for students with high muscle mass, it is an acceptable option in LEAs where policies limit the use of skinfold measurements.
3. Muscle Strength, Endurance, and Flexibility
A. Abdominal Strength and Endurance are important in promoting good posture, correct pelvic alignment, and lower back health.
Test: Curl-Up. The objective is to complete as many curl-ups as possible at a specified pace, up to a maximum of 75.
B. Trunk Extensor Strength and Flexibility: This is an important aspect of fitness because it predicts first time and recurrent lower back pain, a major source of disability and discomfort. Awareness and attention to trunk strength and flexibility may reduce the risk for future back problems.
Test: Trunk Lift. The goal is to lift the upper body a maximum of 12 inches off the floor using the muscles of the back. Students hold this position long enough to allow for the measurement of the lift distance.
C. Upper Body Strength and Endurance is an important fitness area because of reported benefits in maintaining functional health and good posture.
Test: Push-ups. Students are asked to complete as many push-ups as possible and at a specified pace, up to a maximum of 75 push-ups.
D. Flexibility of the joints is an important component of fitness that contributes to functional health.
Test: Shoulder Stretch. This simple test of upper body flexibility involves asking students to touch their fingertips behind the back by reaching over both the left and right shoulders and under the elbow.Performance Standards
The PFT uses the FITNESSGRAM objective criteria to evaluate fitness performance. Student’s performance is classified into the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) or into other zones, depending on the fitness area. The desired performance goal for each test is the HFZ, which represents a level of fitness that offers some protection against the diseases resulting from physical inactivity. The Needs Improvement designation indicates an area of fitness where students would benefit from activities designed to improve performance. Needs Improvement – Health Risk specifically indicates increased health risks due to the level of fitness.
The FITNESSGRAM HFZ standards have been established according to gender and age and are updated on a regular basis. The latest version of the standards is available on the California Department of Education (CDE) PFT Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/pf/.