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Details: New Presidential Youth Fitness Program

Understanding the Results

Each test score is then evaluated using the “Healthy Fitness Zone” standards. A student who scores in the healthy fitness zone in five out of six events is eligible to receive the Presidential Youth Fitness Award.

Students whose results are below the healthy fitness zone standards are placed in the “needs improvement” zone. Within the needs improvement zone there are two levels based on how far below the standard they fall: “needs improvement - some risk” and “needs improvement - high risk.”

Children who need improvement are given information on the health risks linked to low fitness in these areas. They're also taught ways to reach the healthy zone and improve their physical fitness.

Officials say most students who are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day should be able to get a score that places them in the healthy fitness zone.

Is It Enough?

The new physical fitness program has the backing of several major health organizations and physical education professional groups.

But this program, like the old one, is completely voluntary.

That has some physical education experts questioning whether it is enough to combat the childhood obesity epidemic at a time when many schools are cutting PE due to budget constraints and academic performance pressures.

“It’s a good thing that we now have a plan in place to identify youth in America with low physical fitness and high body fat,” says Avery Faigenbaum, EdD, professor of exercise science at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J.

“But there is no incentive to participate or to even offer physical education,” says Faigenbaum. “We can only hope physical education teachers will hop on board.”

But Kent Adams, PhD, kinesiology professor at California State University at Monterey Bay, says the incentive is there.

“I think the incentive is the health and well-being of our children, which equates to the health and well-being of our country,” he says.

“It’s not fair to say it’s in the lap of our public schools,” Adams tells WebMD. “Schools are important, yes. But we have an obligation in our homes and communities to be partners in promoting a healthy lifestyle in our daily lives.”

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