Physical Education and School Contextual Factors Relating to Students' Achievement and Cross-Grade Differences in Aerobic Fitness and Obesity

Physical education programs and policies explain only some of the variance in fitness levels of Texas students; socioeconomic status and community factors also are important.

With children spending so much time at school, school-related factors impacting youth physical fitness are particularly important. Data from the Texas Youth Fitness Study provided an opportunity to study variations from school to school on the association of school physical education programs and policies on fitness scores.

For this study, researchers used two data sets. First, two of the fitness outcomes of the FITNESSGRAM® assessment: the percentage of students who achieved Health Fitness Zone™ (HFZ) for cardiovascular and the percentage who achieved it for body mass index. The second data set represented the physical education programs and policies, and other school characteristics.

Results were logical for most factors. Some of the school physical education program and policy factors that impact students’ fitness between schools and cross-grade differences among schools: teachers’ training, recess time, availability of physical activity space, school wellness policy and practicing the fitness testing before it was administered.

Unexpectedly, students at schools that received funding for physical education had poorer fitness scores. A possible explanation offered was that the schools receiving funding were in low socioeconomic areas and one-shot funding would have little effect on fitness levels. This finding confirms that multiple factors likely influence children’s fitness.