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Fitness Tests Show Kids Out of Shape

Jean Cowden Moore - Ventura County Star

Less than one-third of Ventura County students are physically fit, according to test results.

Students in fifth, seventh and ninth grades were tested in the spring last year in six areas: aerobic capacity, body fat, abdominal strength, lower-back health, upper-body strength and flexibility.

Those who passed all six tests were considered physically fit.

Educators pointed to a variety of changes in schools and homes to explain the results: Teachers spending less time on P.E. and more on academics; students spending more time in front of computers instead of going outside to play; and poor eating habits.

"In past years, students had more active time," said Martha Tureen, assistant superintendent for the Fillmore Unified School District. "Childhood is very different now from the way it was."

School districts that posted top results include Conejo Valley Unified, Mesa Union and Briggs Elementary.

In Briggs, 47 percent of fifth-graders passed all six tests. In the Conejo Valley, it was 49 percent of ninth-graders. In Mesa Union, 52 percent of seventh-graders passed.

High-scoring districts might be more likely to have trained P.E. instructors in the elementary schools, administrators said. They probably also are focusing on standards set by the state, defining what kids need to be able to do physically.

"It's not just five days of dodge ball," said Richard Simpson, assistant superintendent of Conejo Valley schools. "They're saying, 'Maybe we need to work on other muscle groups, as well.'"

Low-scoring districts included Ocean View, Oxnard Elementary and Somis Union.

Martha Hernandez, an administrator in Oxnard Elementary, said the results indicate her district needs to do more than it already has to make sure students are fit.

But not all the results, good or bad, can be pinned on the schools, Hernandez and other administrators said.

Students who scored well also might be playing after-school sports, in addition to taking P.E. at school.

Those who did not score well might go home and watch TV, play video games or spend hours on homework. And they might be eating too much junk food while they sit.

"Some things we cannot control," Hernandez said. "We need to focus on those things we have some influence on."

The state requires elementary schools to offer 20 minutes of P.E. a day.

Middle school students must take one period -- roughly 45 minutes -- of P.E. a day. And high school students must take at least two years of P.E. or the equivalent in sports or marching band.

Physical fitness test results are available at www.cde.ca.gov.

To see more of InsideVC.com, or to subscribe, go to www.InsideVC.com.

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