Fitnessgram, the health and fitness assessment tool owned and developed by The Cooper Institute and published by Human Kinetics, has been instrumental in linking physical fitness and scholastic performance. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) last week released results of a statewide assessment of students in grades 3-12 which showed that students who are physically fit are more likely to do well on the state's standardized tests, have good attendance and are less likely to have disciplinary referrals.

    "The Texas results are similar to those in California that showed a relationship between academic performance and Fitnessgram scores," says Dr. Chuck Corbin of Arizona State University. "These studies complement others that show time spent in physical education and other physical activity during the school day can enhance academic performance. We hope these results help school administrators recognized the need for coordinated physical activity programming. Cutting activity from school programs is counterproductive."

    Fitnessgram includes a battery of six tests which measure body composition, aerobic capacity, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. The Texas study showed a strong correlation between cardiovascular health and school success, specifically.

    However, overall Fitnessgram data and cardiovascular fitness levels, in particular, declined with each passing grade. About 78 percent of fourth-grade students were in the healthy fitness zone for cardiovascular fitness, whereas only 20 percent of high school seniors reached the healthy fitness zone.

    Reversing the downward trend

    Two programs published by Human Kinetics--Physical Best andFitness for Life--fully support and integrate Fitnessgram/Activitygram assessments, helping physical education programs address the tests' results and reverse the downward fitness trends. These programs ultimately empower students to select individually appropriate activities that correlate to the assessment findings and teach them to stay active beyond the classroom for their lifetime, regardless of ability.

    Physical Best is a program of resources and training for K-12 physical educators. This health-related fitness education program was developed by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and is now offered through the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). It provides the material teachers need for implementing health-related fitness education, including curriculum development and health-related fitness activities.

    Fitness for Life, which Corbin and colleagues developed, is an important part of a total program designed to meet selected specific physical education standards and objectives. The middle school program meets selected goals for grades 6-8 while the high school program focuses on goals for grades 9-12. An elementary version will be released in spring 2010. Both the middle school and high school programs are designed so that content integrates with content taught in the more traditional units in the physical education program, but also with other subject matter areas such as science, math, and language arts. Learning in Fitness for Life helps students in these other subject matter areas while focusing on the primary objective of preparing students to be independently active and healthy for a lifetime.

    Phil Abbadessa, a teacher a Mountain Pointe High School in the Tempe Union High School District in Arizona has been using Fitness for Life for many years. "Studies with our students show that teaching self-management skills such as self-assessment, goal setting, and personal fitness planning in a program such as Fitness for Life fosters lifelong physical activity. Lifelong physical activity promotes lifelong fitness."