Physical Fitness Test Administration Practices and Students' Cognitive Understanding of Physical Fitness

By Eastham, Susan L. | Physical Educator, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

Physical Fitness Test Administration Practices and Students' Cognitive Understanding of Physical Fitness


Eastham, Susan L., Physical Educator


Physical fitness tests are administered regularly in the United States, and even without a national mandate, physical fitness testing is often required at the state, county, district, or school level (Cale & Harris, 2009; Morrow, Fulton, Brenner, & Kohl, 2008; National Association for Sport and Physical Education & American Heart Association, 2012). The FitnessGram is a criterion-referenced health-related physical fitness test battery and is one of the most commonly used test batteries in schools (The Cooper Institute, 2013; Lee, Burgeson, Fulton, & Spain, 2007; Morrow, Zhu, Franks, Meredith, & Spain, 2009). The primary goal of the FitnessGram is to motivate students to participate regularly in physical activity (The Cooper Institute, 2013). Regular physical activity is important because it is associated with good health and greatly reduces the risk of developing or dying from certain diseases, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers (Kahn et al., 2002; McMurray & Ondrak, 2013; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1996). A physically active lifestyle not only reduces the risk for chronic diseases but also helps to decrease stress, improve muscle tone and strength to prevent injury, and increase self-confidence and the ability to perform various motor tasks (Roberts, 2000). Additionally, there appears to be a positive relationship between academic achievement and physical fitness (Bass, Brown, Laurson, & Coleman, 2013; California Department of Education, 2005). Students who are physically fit appear to perform better academically, are more attentive, and have fewer discipline problems (Kahn et al., 2002).

Knowing the benefits of a physically active lifestyle and the consequences of physical inactivity, too many children are still failing to engage in regular physical activity. Physical fitness testing is one means of promoting physically active lifestyles (The Cooper Institute, 2013). Although physical fitness tests have been administered in schools for many years, the topic of physical fitness testing has been debated and the value of measuring children's physical fitness levels has been questioned (Cale & Harris, 2009; Lloyd, Colley, & Tremblay, 2010; Naughton, Carlson, & Greene, 2006). It has been argued that if the goal of physical fitness testing is to motivate children to develop a physically active lifestyle, the emphasis should be on assessing physical activity rather than physical fitness (Lloyd et al., 2010). Additionally, it is not clear that children who perform well on physical fitness tests are physically active, and children who are physically active do not always perform well on physical fitness tests (Naughton et al., 2006). It appears as if children's physical fitness test results are influenced by factors other than physical fitness. Factors such as age, maturation, heredity, and environmental conditions appear to influence the test results of children to a greater extent than they do in adults (Harris & Cale, 2006; Morrow, 2005; Naughton et al., 2006). In adults, there is a strong positive relationship between physical fitness and physical activity, but in children the relationship is unclear (Naughton et al., 2006).

Although problems of physical fitness testing do exist, there is support for physical fitness testing as a valuable and appropriate assessment tool for evaluating physical fitness and promoting a physically active lifestyle if the tests are administered correctly. When physical fitness testing is used appropriately, students are more likely to develop a physically active lifestyle (Hopple & Graham, 1995; Silverman, Keating, & Phillips, 2008). Physical fitness testing should not be conducted as an isolated event administered merely to comply with the state requirements, but used as an educational tool that helps students gain knowledge and understanding about physical fitness and the benefits of physical activity (Keating & Silverman, 2004; Lloyd et al. …

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