Is your child in shape?

Some students are, but up to 40 percent don't have a healthy weight
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Are local kids physically fit? The State of California wants to know and each year fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders across the state are tested for strength, endurance and healthy body weight. Some students are making the grade, but many more are not and obesity may be the reason. According to spring 2010 fitness test results, which have not yet been analyzed by the state, at some Loomis Union School District schools as many as 30 and 40 percent of the children are not in the healthy weight zone for their height and age. In order to be considered in the healthy fitness zone, the state requires students to pass six fitness tests. Passing the tests, the Department of Education website states, represents “a level of fitness that offers some protection against the diseases associated with physical inactivity.” Test passage rates in the Loomis district surpass the state’s, but results vary greatly between some district schools. At Franklin Elementary School, more than 70 percent of fifth-graders and 80 percent of seventh-graders met or exceeded the requirements. At Ophir Elementary School, barely 10 percent of students tested met the requirements. Seventy percent of Del Oro High School freshmen were at a healthy level of fitness. Statewide, the passage rate for all three grades tested is about 30 percent. Zach Strutz, a physical education teacher at Franklin and Placer Elementary schools, said, “The tests aren’t that hard. The kids just have to try.” Every spring as part of the fitness tests, Strutz said, district PE teachers evaluate students’ body mass index based on standards for height, weight and age. Underweight and overweight students do not pass that portion of the test. While healthy body weight is the area where most local students are falling short, Strutz said he considers aerobic capacity to be a better gauge of a student’s physical fitness than just their weight. As an example, last spring, 34 percent of Loomis Grammar School fifth-graders were in the unhealthy range for weight, but only two percent of the students couldn’t pass the aerobic portion of the tests. Strutz said his PE students regularly do calisthenics such as jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups. Strutz is a stern taskmaster and requires students to do the exercises correctly or they must repeat them. He said students keep portfolios and fitness logs to track their progress. He said he helps them set fitness goals. “Motivation is the hardest part. At my schools, obesity is not the issue,” Strutz said. Many students are challenged by the flexibility test – the left and right shoulder stretch – which requires them to touch their fingertips together behind their backs on both the left and right sides. Scott Love, a Franklin sixth-grader, said the shoulder stretch is easier to do with the right hand over the shoulder. “The left hand is harder,” Scott said. Franklin’s numbers support Scott’s assertion. Last spring, 20 percent of his classmates could not complete a left-shoulder stretch. But test results can be misleading. Garret Bomhoff, also a Franklin sixth-grader, looks to be in excellent physical condition, but cannot complete either shoulder stretch. He said he runs every day with the cross-country team, and plays soccer and basketball. “I’m just not flexible. I think I have short arms or something,” Garret said. ------------------- PHYSICALLY FIT KIDS 5th-, 7th- and 9th-grade students who passed state physical fitness tests* State: 5th grade, 29 percent; 7th grade, 34 percent; 9th grade, 38 percent Del Oro High School: 9th grade, 71 percent Loomis District: 5th grade, 35 percent; 7th grade, 38 percent By School Loomis Grammar: 5th grade, 9 percent; 7th grade, 22 percent Ophir Elementary: 5th: grade, 10 percent; 7th grade, 7 percent Penryn Elementary: 5th grade, 10 percent; 7th grade, 33 percent H. Clarke Powers: 5th grade, 27 percent; 7th grade, 23 percent Placer Elementary: 5th grade, 50 percent; 7th grade, 51 percent Franklin Elementary: 5th grade, 71 percent; 7th grade, 80 percent *2009 results; 2010 results not yet available. Source: State Department of Education