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US School-Based Physical Fitness Assessments and Data Dissemination.

Abstract

Background

Low physical fitness (PF) levels during childhood affect healthy growth and development, and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Physical education standards exist for nearly all states in the United States, but evaluation of PF in youth has yet to be systematic, reproducible, and harmonized. The purpose of this project was to describe publicly available data of school-based PF testing (SB-PFT).

Methods

A list of state-mandated SB-PFT programs published by SHAPE 2016 was confirmed by contacting appropriate authorities. SB-PFT data were obtained through each state's department of education.

Results

Sixteen states mandate SB-PFT, with 10 states providing publicly available data; 92% to 100% of states perform the pacer/mile, curl-up, and push-up; 54.2% to 78.5% of elementary and 44% to 66.5% of high-school youth are in the "healthy fitness zone" for aerobic capacity.

Conclusions

SB-PFT provided PF data in children across the United States. The variability and inconsistency in reporting and in the values, however, raises questions about the current status of SB-PFT data and its utility in assessing PF in children. The critical nature of PF assessments is highlighted in the current COVID-19 pandemic, during which physical education has been curtailed, and emerging data demonstrate worsening of the already low levels of PF in youth.

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