Fitness Assessments Show Healthy Lifestyles Lead to Improved Learning
Gov. Rick Perry today emphasized the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle for the academic success of Texas students at a press conference announcing the results of the statewide FITNESSGRAM assessment. The study's findings confirmed that students who are physically fit are more likely to do well on the state's standardized tests, have satisfactory school attendance, and are less likely to receive disciplinary referrals.
"Our state and nation are struggling with obesity, thanks to the combination of increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the declining quality of diets," Gov. Perry said. "We owe it to our children to take the appropriate steps to encourage fitness, steps that are made clearer by the information contained in this first round of testing. I am confident we are on our way to making a difference that will improve and even save lives."
The findings released today are based on the results of six FITNESSGRAM tests administered in spring 2008 and taken by more than two million students in grades 3-12, representing 85 percent of the state's school districts. The FITNESSGRAM tool determines whether students are in a "healthy fitness zone" for their age, and measures body composition, aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and flexibility.
The governor was joined by Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. Rob Eissler, who sponsored Senate Bill 520 last session, which increased the physical activity requirement for middle school students and required the annual FITNESSGRAM assessment; Deputy Education Commissioner Ray Glynn; and Dr. Kenneth Cooper of the Cooper Institute of Dallas, which created and administered the FITNESSGRAM assessments.
Data analysis conducted by Cooper Institute researchers found that:
·Students were most likely to achieve a healthy fitness zone level on all six FITNESSGRAM tests at third grade;
·Of the 102,342 third-grade students who participated in the study, 33.25 percent of the girls and 28.6 percent of the boys were in the healthy fitness zone on all six tests;
·Fitness levels declined with each subsequent grade level, reaching a low at 12th grade with only 8.18 percent of girls and 8.96 percent of boys meeting healthy standards on all six tests.
Gov. Perry also reiterated his request that the Texas Legislature allocate $10 million for an incentive based health program target to middle and high school students with the lowest FITNESSGRAM performance.
"The legislation enacted last session is moving us in the right direction, but I believe we can go farther in our efforts to help Texans get a handle on their fitness," Gov. Perry said. "I have asked our legislators to fund a pilot program that would apply elements of incentive-based fitness programs, which have proved effective by combining the power of modern technology and the human affection for rewards."
An avid runner, Gov. Perry has made fitness and healthy lifestyles choices an important part of his healthcare initiatives. Too many Texans face serious health problems as a result of poor nutrition and lack of exercise, and complications from obesity cost the state billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, creating an increased burden on the healthcare system.