• Questions & Answers About Fitness And FitnessGram

    Q. Why are fitness tests important? I'm a guardian, and my child is not going to be a professional athlete. Who cares if he/she can do push-ups or run a mile?

    The FITNESSGRAM physical fitness assessment is based not on athletic ability, but on good health. No matter what your children grow up to become, they will live happier, more productive lives if they are healthy--and physical fitness is vital to overall health. FITNESSGRAM provides accurate and reliable information about your child's level of physical fitness. The FITNESSGRAM test (and report) includes a number of different assessments because fitness has multiple components. Some students may have good muscular fitness but need improvement on aerobic fitness. By having a complete report, you (and your child) will know more about their overall level of physical condition and how it can be improved.

    Q. Why are physical activity and fitness important?

    Physical activity and physical fitness are not the same thing. Participation in regular physical activity leads to improvements in physical fitness and provides many important health benefits. This is well documented, and has been neatly summarized in widely publicized documents such as the Surgeon General's Report called Physical Activity and Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996). To quote one point from the "General Conclusions" section of that report:

    "Physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general, and of coronary artery disease, hypertension, colon cancer, and diabetes mellitus in particular. Physical activity also improves mental health and is important for the health of muscles, bones, and joints."

    Physical fitness (an outcome associated with participation in physical activity) has also been shown to be important for health and quality of life. Assessments of physical fitness provide an effective way to evaluate overall physical condition and potential risk for negative health outcomes. Physical fitness is also more easily assessed than physical activity since it doesn't vary on a day-to-day basis. It is important to note that physical fitness is also influenced by factors that are out of a person's control (for example, genetics). While not everyone can be an elite athlete, most people can achieve healthy levels of fitness by performing the recommended amounts of physical activity.

    Q. How does a fitness report lead to better health and fitness?

    The FITNESSGRAM report generated by the FG software provides information about fitness in an easy to read format. More importantly, the report provides personalized tips and suggestions that can help in planning an individualized fitness plan. An accurate assessment of physical fitness is one component of a comprehensive physical education curriculum that incorporates health-related fitness education. The report provides a way for teachers (and parents) to teach children about the importance of being active and fit throughout their life.

    Q. Will schools use FITNESSGRAM to grade my child?

    The FITNESSGRAM assessment and report are intended to provide teachers (and parents) with accurate information about children's physical fitness. A Position Statement developed by the FITNESSGRAM Advisory Board says that schools should not use FITNESSGRAM either to grade your child or to evaluate teachers. The inherent goal of the FITNESSGRAM program is to promote regular, enjoyable, physical activity for students so that they can reach and maintain a level of physical fitness that will contribute to good health and well-being. FITNESSGRAM helps teachers to determine student needs and guide students in planning personalized physical activity programs.  FITNESSGRAM also helps parents/guardians understand their child's needs so they can help the child 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.

    Q. Will my child's FITNESSGRAM scores be posted or made public?

    FITNESSGRAM results are meant to be individualized and personal. Schools should not post FITNESSGRAM results. They are for use by the teacher, the child, and the child's parents/guardians. Where FITNESSGRAM data is collected by the state, the data will have student names removed so that individual scores may not be identified with a particular student. That data will be used to study trends and not to judge individual students.

    Q. Will my child be compared to other children?

    No. FITNESSGRAM uses health-related criteria called Healthy Fitness Zones to determine students' overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate. Healthy Fitness Zones (HFZ) are not based on class averages or any other peer comparisons. They are "criterion-referenced" standards that are based on how much fitness is needed for good health. The standards are set specifically for boys and girls of different ages using the best available research. The FITNESSGRAM report defines the recommended range of fitness for each test measure and calls this range the Healthy Fitness Zone. If your child's score falls within the Healthy Fitness Zone it means they have achieved the recommended level of fitness for their age.

    So, your child will not be compared with other children. Your child will get personalized information on his or her own fitness as it relates to good health.

    Q. Will my child be made to feel that he or she is too overweight or too skinny?

    No. FITNESSGRAM recognizes that physically fit and less-fit people come in all shapes and sizes. The beginning level of the FITNESSGRAM Healthy Fitness Zone for body composition is based on research that links these levels to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The FITNESSGRAM parent and student reports use carefully worded terminology to help parents and youth understand possible risks associated with higher levels of body fat. Language that could be used to describe physical appearance is not used in the FITNESSGRAM reports.

    Q. What happens if my child"fails" the FITNESSGRAM test?

    There is no pass or fail to theFITNESSGRAM report. The category below the Healthy Fitness Zone on theFITNESSGRAM test is referred to as "Needs Improvement," to indicate dimensions of fitness that may require special attention. While the effect of low fitness may not influence health until later in adulthood, it is importantto identify potential risks early on so that adjustments can be made to improve those levels. Therefore, the Needs Improvement message should be used prescriptively to help children set goals or targets to improve their fitness.The wording used for this category does not imply "bad fitness" or"poor fitness" but rather areas in which the child should seek improvement.

    It should be noted that it is alsopossible for some students to score above the HFZ. FITNESSGRAM acknowledges performances above the HFZ but does not recommend this level of performance as an appropriate goal level for all students. However, students who desire to achieve a high level of athletic performance may need to consider setting goals beyond the HFZ.

    The Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ)standards in the FITNESSGRAM test reflect reasonable levels of fitness that can be attained by most children who participate regularly in various types of physical activity. Because of this, we recommend that all students should strive to achieve a score that places them inside the HFZ. However, it is common for children to achieve the HFZ for some dimensions of fitness but not for others. Most children usually have areas that they excel in more than others.

    Q. Doesn't fitness testing take away time from academic areas and thus hurt academic test scores?

    Parents--as well as teachers and administrators--sometimes express this concern. The general assumption is that the best way to improve students' test scores in core subjects is to increase the amount of class time spent on core subjects, even to the exclusion of other curriculum areas like physical education and fine arts. However, there is no research evidence to suggest that daily physical education detracts from academic success, even when it results in less academic class time during the school day. While a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been established, some research suggests that fitness (and physical activity) may improve cognition and academic performance. The evidence is compelling enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement in favor of "expansion of school physical education, dissuading children from pursuing sedentary activities, providing suitable role models for physical activity and making activity-promoting changes in the environment."

    It is also important to point out that FITNESSGRAM testing need not take time away from academic subjects. Most physical education teachers use fitness assessments as part of their normal instruction, so additional class time is not needed to complete the testing. Depending on class size, the FITNESSGRAM test battery can be completed in 3 or 4 class periods, and the assessments help reinforce students' learning of fitness concepts that are part of the overall physical education curriculum.