2017-01-13 / Editorials

Why we should care about physical fitness results


“Eh, who cares?”

That’s likely the reaction most people had to the California Department of Education’s announcement this month about how students did on the annual Physical Fitness Test.

The test, usually given during P.E. to fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders, is a way of tracking the physical fitness of public school students, who are measured for aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength, and flexibility. Each category is given three rankings: healthy, needs improvement and health risk.

It’s good to report that Simi Valley fifth- and ninth-graders did better than their peers statewide in almost every category, including body composition, which is considered the most important of the bunch.

In California, approximately 60 percent of students in grade five and 64 percent of students in grade nine met the healthy fitness zone standard for body composition. At Simi Valley Unified, 62 percent of fifth-graders and 69 percent of ninth-graders met the healthy fitness zone in that category.

But don’t let those numbers fool you. By and large, kids are heavier, weaker and less agile than they were just 15 years ago.

So if we love our kids and want the best for them, why then have we become complacent regarding the very thing that’s of utmost importance—their health?

Sure, times have changed and kids just don’t go outside and simply ride their bikes or run around the neighborhood like their parents did a generation earlier. And yes, new technology such as smartphones and video game consoles are more prevalent today than ever before. Let’s face it, there was no such thing as “binge watching” when most of us were kids, unless of course you count sick days spent on the couch.

Those new technologies, coupled with ever-rising portion sizes and energy drinks pumped so full of caffeine and sugar they need names like Monster to describe them, are slowly expanding our children’s waistlines and shortening their life spans.

Just last month, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control released a report showing that for the first time in decades life expectancy in the U.S. dropped. Heart disease remains the biggest killer, which is unquestionably linked to the rise in obesity. And with obesity comes high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and a higher risk for cancer.

Habits are hard to break, and those habits we begin as children and teenagers are even harder to change. Reversing these health trends will take time and effort, but the payoffs will be well worth it.

The biggest step, however, is recognizing there is a problem. That’s why the most recent state health scores are so important. The data shows, without a doubt, our children’s health is getting worse, and that’s something we should all care about.

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