Frequently Asked Questions

What is the FITNESSGRAM Philosophy?

The acronym HELP is used to describe the philosophy of FITNESSGRAM :

Health and health related-fitness. The primary goal of both programs is to promote regular physical activity among all youth. Of particular importance is promoting activity patterns that lead to reduced health risk and improved health-related physical fitness.

Everyone. FITNESSGRAM and ACTIVITYGRAM are designed for all people regardless of physical ability. They are intended to help ALL youth find some form of activity that they can do for a lifetime. Too often activity programs are perceived to be only for those who are "good" rather than for all people.

Lifetime. FITNESSGRAM and ACTIVITYGRAM have as a goal helping young people to be active now, but a long term goal is to help them learn to do activities that they will continue to perform through out their lives.

Personal. No two people are exactly the same. No two people enjoy the exact same activities. FITNESSGRAM and ACTIVITYGRAM are designed to personalize physical activity to meet personal or individual needs.

What is the Goal of FITNESSGRAM?

The inherent goal of the FITNESSGRAM program is to promote regular, enjoyable, physical activity for students so that they can reach and maintain a level of physical fitness that will contribute to good health and well-being. FITNESSGRAM helps teachers and parents to determine student needs and guide them in planning personalized physical activity programs.

FITNESSGRAM also helps parents/guardians understand their child's needs so they can help the child develop and stick to a plan of regular physical activity--one that's focused on enjoyable activities the child can do throughout his or her life.

Why are physical activity and fitness important?

Physical activity and physical fitness are not the same thing. Participation in regular physical activity leads to improvements in physical fitness and provides many important health benefits.

Physical fitness (an outcome associated with participation in physical activity) also has been shown to be important for health and quality of life.

Assessments of physical fitness provide an effective way to evaluate overall physical condition and potential risk for negative health outcomes.

Physical fitness is also more easily assessed than physical activity since it doesn't vary on a day-to-day basis. It is important to note that physical fitness is also influenced by factors that are out of a person's control (for example, genetics). While not everyone can be an elite athlete, most people can achieve healthy levels of fitness by performing the recommended amounts of physical activity.

Why are fitness tests important? I'm a parent, and my child is not going to be a professional athlete. Who cares if he/she can do push-ups or run a km?

The FITNESSGRAM physical fitness assessment is based not on athletic ability, but on good health. No matter what your children grow up to become, they will live happier, more productive lives if they are healthy--and physical fitness is vital to overall health. FITNESSGRAM provides accurate and reliable information about your child's level of physical fitness.

The FITNESSGRAM test (and report) includes a number of different assessments because fitness has multiple components. Some kids may have good muscular fitness but need improvement on aerobic fitness. By having a complete report, you (and your child) will know more about their overall level of physical condition and how it can be improved

For what ages is FITNESSGRAM an appropriate assessment tool?

FITNESSGRAM's recommended age range is from kindergarten through college. Most of the Healthy Fitness Zones address younger children, but aerobic capacity standards are not presented for students in grade K-3. This is partly because of the challenges associated with determining standards but also a philosophical decision by the FITNESSGRRAM Advisory Board. Performance levels are not the most important objective for young children in this age range. Instead, the emphasis for young children should be on enjoying activity and on learning to perform the test items successfully.

How does a fitness report lead to better health and fitness?

The FITNESSGRAM report generated by the FG software provides information about fitness in an easy to read format. More importantly, the report provides personalized tips and suggestions that can help in planning an individualized fitness plan. An accurate assessment of physical fitness is one component of a comprehensive physical education curriculum that incorporates health-related fitness education. The report provides a way for teachers and parents to teach children about the importance of being active and fit throughout their life.

Will my child be compared to other children?

No. FITNESSGRAM uses health-related criteria called Healthy Fitness Zones to determine students' overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate.

Healthy Fitness Zones (HFZ) are not based on class averages or any other peer comparisons. They are "criterion-referenced" standards that are based on how much fitness is needed for good health. The standards are set specifically for boys and girls of different ages using the best available research.

The FITNESSGRAM report defines the recommended range of fitness for each test measure and calls this range the Healthy Fitness Zone. If your child's score falls within the Healthy Fitness Zone it means they have achieved the recommended level of fitness for their age.

So, your child will not be compared with other children. Your child will get personalized information on his or her own fitness as it relates to good health.

Why use the "Healthy Fitness Zones"? Why not just compare kids to the national--or class--average?

The use of health-related criteria helps to minimize comparisons between children and to emphasize personal fitness for health rather than goals based solely on performance. Since only modest amounts of exercise are needed for obtaining health benefits, most students who participate in physical activity almost every day will be able to achieve a score that will place them in the Healthy Fitness Zone.

What happens if my child "fails" the FITNESSGRAM test?

There is no pass or fail to the FITNESSGRAM report. The category below the Healthy Fitness Zone on the FITNESSGRAM test is referred to as "Needs Improvement," to indicate dimensions of fitness that may require special attention.

While the effect of low fitness may not influence health until later in adulthood, it is important to identify potential risks early on so that adjustments can be made to improve those levels. Therefore, the Needs Improvement message should be used prescriptively to help children set goals or targets to improve their fitness. The wording used for this category does not imply "bad fitness" or "poor fitness" but rather areas in which the child should seek improvement.

The Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) standards in the FITNESSGRAM test reflect reasonable levels of fitness that can be attained by most children who participate regularly in various types of physical activity. Because of this, we recommend that all students should strive to achieve a score that places them inside the HFZ. However, it is common for children to achieve the HFZ for some dimensions of fitness but not for others. Most children usually have areas that they excel in more than others.

Doesn't fitness testing take away time from academic areas and thus hurt academic test scores?

Parents--as well as teachers and administrators--sometimes express this concern. The general assumption is that the best way to improve students' test scores in core subjects is to increase the amount of class time spent on core subjects, even to the exclusion of other curriculum areas like physical education and fine arts. However, there is no research evidence to suggest that daily physical education detracts from academic success, even when it results in less academic class time during the school day. While a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been established, some research suggests that fitness (and physical activity) may improve cognition and academic performance. The evidence is compelling enough that the Indian Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement in favor of "expansion of school physical education, dissuading children from pursuing sedentary activities, providing suitable role models for physical activity and making activity-promoting changes in the environment."

It is also important to point out that FITNESSGRAM testing need not take time away from academic subjects. Most physical education teachers use fitness assessments as part of their normal instruction, so additional class time is not needed to complete the testing. Depending on class size, the FITNESSGRAM test battery can be completed in 3 or 4 class periods, and the assessments help reinforce students' learning of fitness concepts that are part of the overall physical education curriculum.

How was FITNESSGRAM developed?

FITNESSGRAM was created in 1982 by The Cooper Institute to provide an easy way for physical education teachers to report to parents on children's fitness levels. Then and now, students are assessed in these areas of health-related fitness: cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition.. The reports serve as a communications link between teachers and parents. The Healthy Fitness Zone standards were established by the FITNESSGRAM Advisory Board, which includes some of the foremost scientists and practitioners in fitness and physical activity..

What are the "Healthy Fitness Zones" and how are they determined?

FITNESSGRAM's Healthy Fitness Zones (HFZs) are research-based standards for aerobic capacity; body composition; and muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility. These standards indicate levels of fitness necessary for good health. They have been developed and refined over more than 25 years by the FITNESSGRAM Advisory Board.

A score in the HFZ represents the level of fitness thought to provide some protection from the potential health risks that result from a lack of fitness in this measure. The beginning of the HFZ represents a minimum level of fitness necessary to have acceptable health. These standards reflect reasonable levels of fitness that can be attained by most children that participate regularly in various types of physical activity. Because of this, we recommend that all students should strive to achieve a score that places them inside the HFZ. It is not uncommon for children to achieve the HFZ for some dimensions of fitness but not for others. Most children usually have areas that they excel in more than others.

Healthy Fitness Zones differ for boys and for girls, and they differ based on age.

What are the tests done in FITNESSGRAM?

Health-related physical fitness tests designed to assess:

Aerobic capacity (cardiorespiratory fitness)
Muscular strength
Muscular endurance
Body composition