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Criterion-referenced fitness evaluations determine if students are in good health

This is an excerpt from Introduction to Teaching Physical Education by Jane Shimon.

Fitnessgram® uses criterion-referenced fitness evaluations based on minimum standards for good health. If students’ fitness scores fall within healthy fitness zones for the 1-mile run or PACER tests, they are considered in good health. If scores fall within healthy fitness zones for the curl-up (sit-up), push-up, and flexibility tests, students have met standards for being active. These zones help students connect their level of fitness to standards of good health. Of course, it is beneficial to remind students to try to score in the higher limits of each healthy fitness zone.

Teachers or students, or both, can enter fitness scores into the Fitnessgram computer program to generate a printable Fitnessgram report (see figure 9.12 on page 172). The printout indicates health-related fitness scores that fall within healthy fitness zones and those that do not reach the zone. In addition, recommendations are provided to help students maintain or improve those areas not in the zone. Fitnessgram reports can also be used to educate parents about the fitness and health status of their children.

Fitnessgram is supported by AAHPERD and is widely used by physical education teachers in the United States. The Fitnessgram program, including the testing CD and manual, along with a physical activity section, can be purchased through Human Kinetics or at Common Fitnessgram health-related fitness tests are described briefly in the following sections.

Aerobic Endurance

Cardiorespiratory endurance is measured by the 1-mile walk/run, a walk test (for ages 13 and older), or a distinctive progressive running test called the PACER. The PACER test is a series of repeated 20-meter runs conducted in the gym that gradually become faster as laps are completed, based on the audio prompts from the testing CD. Students start out running at a slow pace for each 20-meter segment. As the pace increases, students are asked to keep up until they are unable to maintain the pace, at which time the total number of completed laps is recorded by a peer.


A curl-up (sit-up) test is used to test for abdominal strength; however, this test is not your basic sit-up test. The test has several unique features: (1) The testing audio CD uses a three-second cadence prompt for each curl-up, and (2) students have to reach the curl-up strip on the mat for the curl-up to count. This testing protocol allows for consistent repetitions among students and minimizes the potential for cheating or questionable scores. The trunk lift is used to assess low-back strength. While lying facedown, students try to extend or lift their trunk and chest off the floor by using the muscles of the back. This position is held and a measurement is taken. The push-up test is used to test upper-body strength. As with the curl-up test, a three-second audio cadence prompt is used for each push-up. Elbows must be bent to 90 degrees for a push-up to be considered successful. Other test options for strength include modified pull-ups and the flexed arm hang.


The modified sit-and-reach is a common test used to determine low-back and hamstring flexibility. The shoulder stretch can also be used to measure upper-body flexibility.

Body Composition

Body composition, or percent body fat, is often determined by using calipers at two skinfold sites (calf and triceps). It takes a lot of practice to accurately gather skinfold readings; thus, many physical education teachers use body mass index (BMI) to determine whether students are at risk for health-related weight problems (Adams and Adams 2009). The body mass index uses weight and height (see figure 9.13) to determine health–weight classifications: underweight, healthy weight, at risk for overweight, and overweight. It is important to remember, however, that BMI calculations do not really measure body fat. BMI identifies students who are at risk healthwise based on their body fat content compared to others of the same age (Reilly 2006). As an alternative to calipers and BMI, some schools purchase electronic bioimpedance analysis (BIA) devices to measure percent body fat. These devices analyze the electrical conductivity of tissue and fluid compartments of the body. Ultimately, you will need to determine whether measuring body composition is an important facet of health-related fitness to assess in your physical education program.

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