UPDATE: Last week I reviewed part of the American College of Sports Medicine's "Opinion Statement" concerning physical fitness in children and youth. They stated in part that "physical fitness programs for children and youth should be developed" for the purpose of teaching "appropriate lifelong exercise behavior" so that children and young people will grow up with fitness habits to maintain vigor and enhance health throughout their lives.

They recommended that:1) Schools should be involved in the fitness education process by teaching the principles of fitness and providing time for activity.

2) Parents should be involved, both to encourage their children in fitness activities and to act as role models for proper fitness habits.

3) Communities should be more involved with lifetime physical activities as well as the more traditional sports activities now available.

4) And health professionals should stress fitness as a way of life.

Their final recommendations were:

5) Physical fitness testing is a highly visible and important part of physical fitness programs. School, community, state and national organizations must adopt a logical, consistent and scientifically sound approach to physical fitness testing.

The focus of physical fitness testing should be health-related rather than athletic-related. For instance, typical fitness tests measure characteristics such as speed, muscular power and agility, which are important characteristics in terms of athletic success but may relate highly to genetic ability. Tests for health-related factors include aerobic power (cardiovascular), body composition (fatness), joint flexibility, and strength and endurance of the skeletal muscles. These characteristics are partly influenced by genetics, but can be changed significantly by appropriate exercise patterns.

6) Educational programs designed to increase knowledge and appreciation of the role and value of exercise on physical fitness and health are virtually nonexistent in public schools. Professional efforts need to be taken to develop, pre-test and publish educational materials suitable for use in schools.

Further, school teachers need to learn how to teach these important concepts to their students. Teachers also need to learn how to integrate other aspects of health promotion (good nutrition and not smoking, for example) into instruction about exercise and physical fitness. All of these components should be coordinated into one package for the effective teaching of students in this important area.

7) The ACSM recommends that physical fitness test scores be interpreted in relation to acceptable standards rather than by normative comparison. Additional research is needed to set these standards.

8) Awards systems should be based on exercise behavior and achievement in relation to achievable physical fitness standards. Too often, only those students with superior athletic ability are able to qualify for awards.