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Presidential Physical Fitness Test to Be Replaced After 2012-13

Gym class could become less traumatizing for some K-12 students under a new national initiative announced today.

If you're like me, you remember having to endure the Presidential Physical Fitness Test back in the day, which tested students in curl-ups, pull-ups, a timed shuttle run, an endurance run/walk, and the sit-and-reach.

If you're like me, being faced with the prospect of 40 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, and a 6:30 mile run for a Presidential Physical Fitness Award as a 14-year-old was about as appealing as a daily trip to the principal's office. (Let's be honest: I'd be lucky to hit those benchmarks now, 10 years later.)

Starting next school year, the test will become a thing of the past. It's being replaced by the Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP), a "health-related, criterion-based assessment" which resulted from a partnership between the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, the Amateur Athletic Union, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD), Cooper Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The departure from the test, part of the President's Challenge, signals a move away from measuring students' performance and puts more emphasis on assessing students' health, according to the PYFP's website.

Well and Good

"To keep fitness in a positive mode, children's individual fitness scores will not be used as a criteria for grading in physical education class and will be confidential between the teacher, student, and parent," said Paul Roetert, chief executive officer of the AAHPERD, in a statement.

Under the new program, students' fitness will be measured using the Cooper Institute's FITNESSGRAM, which measures five areas of health-related fitness: aerobic capacity, body composition, flexibility, muscle strength, and muscular endurance. FITNESSGRAM's Healthy Fitness Zone standards "represent the minimal levels of fitness needed for good health based on the student's age and gender," according to the PYFP website.

The PYFP's website also includes a section devoted to professional development, which includes a free monthly webinar series on youth fitness and health. The first webinar in this series will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 1 p.m. Eastern, where the AAHPERD will walk through the basics of the new PYFP.

"Through the new Presidential Youth Fitness Program, physical education teachers will have access to the necessary tools they need to help children develop healthy lifestyles that will optimize their health and educational experience beyond the school years," said the AAHPERD's Roetert in a statement.

While the PYFP won't be issuing Youth Fitness Test awards anymore, free PYFP school recognition certificates will be offered. Certificates, medals, and badges will also be available in an online store as rewards for students who participate in the program.

Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association, threw her support behind the PYFP in a statement released today.

"This assessment will be a great way to evaluate the health impact of physical education programs in schools and allow for a standardized comparison of fitness levels of children across the country," she said. "The information collected can be used to inform course curriculum development, children's physical activity programming, and policy change."

It's been a good run, Physical Fitness Test. I'll always remember how few pull-ups I could do back in my earlier years, thanks to you.

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