Saturday, November 18, 2006

Most youth failing state fitness exam.

The majority of California students are too big, too slow and too weak, according to the results of the state's annual fitness test released Friday.

About 3 out of 4 students tested couldn't perform all six of the physical tasks required to pass the exam -- about the same as last year.

Students were asked to do several activities including sit-ups, push-ups and stretches. Their body fat was also calculated. But the aerobic workout proved to be the hardest test of all.

About 43 percent of the 1.3 million students tested in grades 5, 7 and 9 couldn't run or walk a mile within a certain period of time. The time allowed varied by age and gender.

By comparison, about 82 percent of the students were able to do the required number of sit ups.

Overall, the test measures aerobic ability, body composition, strength and flexibility, said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

"These numbers tell us that too many of our students are leading sedentary lives exacerbated by poor eating habits," he added. "This is a destructive trend that has resulted in an epidemic of childhood obesity and must be reversed."

O'Connell said the state's budget this year provides in an extra $40 million for more gym teachers and another $500 million for fitness supplies and teacher training in the state's physical fitness curriculum standards, which include the basics of nutrition, exercise and the rules of common sports. Some of that funding will also go to art instruction.

As in years past, this year's fitness results varied depending on ethnicity and geography.

Samoan American and Latino students lagged behind other ethnic groups, according to the results, with about 15 percent and 21 percent, respectively, meeting all six fitness standards.

By comparison, nearly 45 percent of Japanese American students passed the test.

"Just as we have an academic achievement gap, we have a physical fitness gap as well," O'Connell said.

Meanwhile, students in urban areas lagged behind suburban peers.

In Oakland, for example, 20 percent of students tested passed the fitness exam compared with 46 percent in Pleasanton


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