Reflections on the Texas Youth Evaluation Project and Implications for the Future

Kenneth Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., founder of the Cooper Institute, creator of the FITNESSGRAM® test battery, calls for quality physical education programs.

Schools are an important setting for youth obesity prevention efforts especially through changes to school lunches and physical education (PE) programs. While most students achieve health-related fitness standards, fitness levels are lower for older students over the three years of testing in Texas. The most important age-related declines were in cardiovascular fitness, a dimension with strong health-related consequences.

Key Findings:

  • Physical activity and PE is linked positively to academic achievement.
  • Teachers can collect reliable and valid fitness data that can be used to improve PE programming, policies and practices.
  • Support from coaches, administrators and students are needed for effective fitness testing programs. This can only be achieved through continued statewide support of PE.
  • Physical education and recess, as well as qualified PE teachers all are important in promoting school fitness.
  • PE and fitness testing have implications for children’s psychosocial development, as well as self-esteem.

The passage of Senate Bill 530 brought attention to the importance of youth fitness in Texas. Mandatory physical fitness testing will not make students more fit. Only quality PE programs can. PE plays an important role in reducing obesity, increasing longevity and reducing health care costs.