How Many California Children Meet School Fitness Goals?

The percent of California public school children who met state fitness standards remained roughly constant between 2011 and 2015.

In 2015, 26.4 percent of fifth grade students met the state’s fitness goals, an increase of about one percentage point from 2011, according to data from the California Department of Education posted on Kidsdata.

The percentages of seventh and ninth grade students who met the benchmark in 2015 were higher, at 32.5 percent and 37.6 percent, respectively. In 2011, 32.1 percent of seventh grade students passed the physical test, while 36.8 percent of ninth grade students did.

The figures vary widely at the county and school district levels, according to Kidsdata.*

In 2015, the percentage of fifth grade students who met all fitness standards ranged from 14.6 percent in Glenn County, in the Sacramento Valley, to 64.7 percent in Tuolumne County, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In order to meet the benchmark, children must score in the “Healthy Fitness Zone” on all six fitness tests. The tests measure upper body strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength and trunk strength. In 2011, the state created new standards for aerobic capacity and body composition.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents participate in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for at least 60 minutes daily.

Regular exercise has been shown to help young people improve muscle development, bone strength, heart health, mental health and academic performance, according to research cited by Kidsdata. Children who regularly exercise also are at lower risk for some diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

*Kidsdata is a project of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, a funder of California Health Report.

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