Six months after Lodi Unified School District discussed eliminating some physical education requirements, fitness test results released by the California Department of Education on Wednesday show that more than a third of the district’s fifth-graders are overweight.
The state’s body composition standards are based on two measures: the percent of fat in a child’s body and the child’s body mass index.
About 1.34 million fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders took the FITNESSGRAM test this year, reflecting nearly 94 percent of students enrolled in those grades in public schools across California. Statewide results show students made slight gains this year in two of the most important indicators of health and physical fitness, and held relatively steady overall.
Students in fifth and seventh grade, specifically, improved in aerobic capacity and body composition, two of the six areas that are assessed annually and considered among the most important gauges of health. Students in ninth grade showed improvement in aerobic capacity as well, but dipped a tenth of a percentage point in body composition.
In Lodi Unified, seventhand ninth-graders showed improvement over 2011 scores, when about 31 percent of seventh-graders and 28 percent of ninth-graders needed improvement in that category. Now those figures are 17.9 and 19.9 percent, respectively.
Fifth-graders saw no change; 35 percent still need improvement, according to the data.
Body composition is perhaps the most important indicator of who will develop future health problems, although aerobic capacity is an indicator of physical fitness.
Those results showed 62 percent of fifth-graders were in the healthy fit zone, compared to 67.6 percent of seventh-graders and 59.9 percent of ninth-graders. All three were an improvement over past results.
This year, about 58.2 percent of fifth-, seventhand ninth-graders tested in Sacramento County had a healthy body composition. The number of “high-risk” students in the county rose slightly, going from 27.5 percent to 27.7 percent.
Broken down by grade, fifthand seventh-graders saw slight improvements in the proportion of students at a healthy weight; ninth-graders saw slight declines.
“The simple fact is that healthy kids learn better,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release. “I’m pleased to see the slow shift toward better health continue, but when only about a third of our students are physically fit, we are nowhere near the end of this effort.
“To help them succeed in school and in life, California’s young people need more access to physical activity, fresh, healthy food, and clean water.”
Wednesday’s results come on the heels of several recent reports that correlate increased physical activity with higher test scores.
One study in Nebraska, for example, assessed the fitness of students in a shuttle run, where kids run a back-and-forth lap in a set time. The kids who performed best on this test scored higher on both the math and reading portions of state standardized exams.
The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.