San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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July 18th, 2008
Run with Moe – 07/18/08

As a race director one of the tasks is to order the awards for the various age categories.  After the race there are several categories that are left over because of lack of entries.  In the past this usually turned out to be the senior age groups of over 60 or over 70, especially in the women’s groups.  Lately this does not seem to be the case and the ones often left over are the under 19 age groups and again more often for the women than the men.  A report that came out last week sort of explains why this is happening.  There were actually two reports, one for a nation wide survey and the other for the state of Texas.  The survey’s reported the fitness level of children and the results show that elementary kids were in fair shape but as the kids moved up in grades the fitness level fell off to very low levels.

The report was for moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and the percentage of kids that met those standards.  Texas used the FITNESSGRAM physical fitness test for its results on 2.6 million kids in Texas schools.  Moderate activity is described as walking briskly, dancing, swimming, or bicycling on level ground.  Vigorous activity moved up to things such as jogging, high impact aerobics, swimming continuous laps or bicycling uphill during the ride.

Nationwide the results showed that at age 9 children averaged roughly 3 hours on weekdays and weekends.  By age 15 that time had dropped to only 40 minutes per weekday and 35 minutes on weekends.  Between the ages of 9 and 11 more than 90% of the children met the recommended level of 60 minutes or more of MVPA each day.  At age 15 the percentage was only 31% on weekdays and 17% on weekends.  Researchers estimated that physical activity declined by about 40 minutes per day each year until age 15 most failed to reach that level.  The boys had 18 minutes more than girls on average and 13 minutes more on weekends. Weekends seem to be spent doing something else besides being active as boys dropped to age 13.4 years when they stopped meeting recommended levels and girls stopped at age 12.6 years.

Texas is the first state to order a comprehensive physical assessment of its students.   The FITNESSGRAM test includes six items that include the one-mile run, curl ups, push-ups, trunk lift, shoulder stretches and a skin fold test.  In Texas the same progression of declining fitness scores as children got older was also true.  While elementary kids were the most active percentage wise the percentages were still below 50%.   The table below shows the grade level and percentages of Texas kids testing out as a “Healthy Fitness Zone” on all six tests:

GRADE            GIRLS        BOYS
3                   32.09%      27.64%
4                    27.4%        20.36%
5                   23.03%      17.29%
6                   22.59%      17.1%
7                   20.93%      16.93%
8                    18.7%         17.55%
9                    13.4%         14.4%
10                  11.94%        13.12%
11                  10.25%        11.71%
12                   7.82%          8.56%

The results are very scary when it comes to having Texas as a physically fit state.  With obesity as a serious problem in Texas many people may just say, “So what?”  Maybe the fitness level does not mean that much but the Texas comptroller of public accounts found that Texas businesses spent an estimated $3.3 billion ($3,300,000,000) in 2005 on costs related to obesity.  That kind of money has an affect on everybody.  The costs included disability coverage, lower productivity, absenteeism and health care.

Texas has 19.1% of kids considered obese which put us at number 6 nationwide behind number 1 The District of Columbia at 22.8% obesity rate.  The scary thing about this is a statement in the report that reads, “Inactive, overweight children tend to maintain that pattern into adulthood.”  If you think the $3.3 billion in costs for obese people is bad now just wait what happens if the trend follows the high percentage of obese and out of shape kids into adulthood and that dollar figure will almost certainly go up.

Now I know why that younger age group always seems to have awards left over unless some of these kids that are ages 8 to 12 enter in that category.  We have had some these past few weeks where kids as young as 8 years are going home with the trophy.

I remember when fitness tests included chin-ups and push ups as part of the items to be tested on.  It is difficult to find a test these days that includes the chin-up, as the average score is less than one repetition.  That does not look good so the way to correct the problem is to not test the chin-up anymore.  Old style push-ups had the person dropping down with a straight body until the chest touched the floor.  Today the push up test is a 90 degree bent arm distance as many kids that dropped down to the floor could not push back up and if a half push up looks better on a test score than that is what will be used.  Anyway you look at it Texas needs to “SHAPE UP” – and fast.  I cannot afford to pay for them when I retire in the future.


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