The low level of fitness in junior-high school students is an area of great concern. An important, but misunderstood, part of the physical education curriculum is the development of aerobic fitness. What is the best way to go about developing aerobic fitness? Four groups of primarily Caucasian (79.9%) Grade 8 and 9 students (n = 144), attending a large Grade 8-12 school in a suburban west coast Canadian city were tested using a pre- and posttest comparison of one of four instructional formats to determine which produced the greatest increase in aerobic fitness as measured by two timed 2400 meter (1.49 miles) running tests 10 weeks apart. A secondary goal was to see if there existed any difference between boys and girls in fitness attainment. The results indicated that the group receiving the instructional format with the varied activities showed a significantly greater improvement (p < .05) in aerobic fitness than the other three groups. This would support the idea that providing varied activities that are fun and engaging is beneficial in increasing aerobic fitness in junior high school students. The results also showed that there were no significant differences between boys and girls as to treatment method.
In this age of fast-food restaurants, video games and the automobile, maintaining or improving a reasonable level of fitness in adolescents can be challenging. One of the most accessible opportunities for addressing the physical fitness needs of children and youth is the school physical education program. School physical education programs could incorporate vigorous physical activity, and improvements in the cardiorespiratory endurance component of physical fitness could be achieved by children who participate in such programs. The problem that needed to be addressed was, "What was the best way to incorporate vigorous physical activity into the physical education class in order to improve aerobic fitness?"
The importance of fitness of junior high school students cannot be denied. Adult habits and attitudes in the realm of fitness are often continuations of patterns established during the juvenile years (Canadian Paediatric Society, 2002). Unfit and/or obese children are at an increased risk for "hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia, hyperinsulinemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, respiratory disorders, orthopedic problems and psychological problems during their youth." (Berensen & Epstein, 1983 Canadian Paediatric Society, 2002).
Sallis, Prochaska, and Taylor (2000) have reported that numerous studies of youth show that adolescent activity and fitness levels decline as the child ages. The research that has been done shows that the total daily energy expenditure per kilogram of bodyweight diminishes at a rate of almost 50% for both boys and girls between the ages of six and 14 years (Rowland, 1990). At age five or six, youngsters are entering school and the amount of free time in which they can be physically active is reduced. As they enter junior high or middle school, homework considerations further reduce the time available for free play. The influx of popular sedentary activities such as video games and computers help to lure many youth away from more healthy pursuits. At 16, many adolescents are getting their driver's licenses and as they reach their late teens, riding in a car tends to replace bicycling or walking as the primary means of transportation.
This movement toward a sedentary lifestyle is corroborated by the findings of Kemper (1994) who showed decreases in total activity, using a weighted score of duration and intensity, declined by 12% for girls and 23.5% for boys between the ages of 13.5 and 16.5. Not only is daily energy expenditure decreasing but also the "quality" time of exercise necessary for the improvement of aerobic fitness.
A study by McKenzie et al. (2000) showed that by Grade 8, 27% of boys and 40% of girls had no out-of-school vigorous activity. …