- Fitness Testing for Children
- Some Testing Programs for School Age Children
- Specific Tests
- Related Pages
- Assess Fitness
- Brockport Physical Fitness Test
- Assessing K-3 Students
- 6 Fitness Tests to Gauge Your Overall Progress
- Test 1: Dead Hang
- Test 3: Maximum Burpees in 5 Minutes
- Test 4: 300 Yard Shuttle
- Test 5: Broad Jump
- Test 6: Bodyweight Conditioning
- Could You Pass Your Kid’s Middle School Fitness Test?
Fitness Testing for Children
Physical fitness has traditionally been associated with young adults through to the middle-aged population. However, it is important to monitor fitness and encourage activity from an early age. There are several programs that have fitness testing protocols designed for assessing school age children, such as the President’s Challenge in the USA. Testing children younger than school age would not be appropriate.
Some Testing Programs for School Age Children
- FitnessGram — designed to assess the fitness levels of children in grades K-12
- Presidents Challenge — fitness award program for school age children in the United States (now using FitnesGram)
- Connecticut Physical Fitness Test — a fitness assessment given annually to all students in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10 in the US state of Connecticut.
- International Physical Fitness Test — a battery of tests developed to test Arab youth aged 9 to 19 years.
- National Physical Fitness Awards — a series of tests of physical fitness for the children of Singapore.
- ALPHA-Fit — designed to assess the health-related fitness status in children and adolescents of the European Union.
- Eurofit — a testing program devised by the Council of Europe for children of school age.
- Personal Fitness Merit Badge — a fitness test battery conductd by Scouts
- Kraus-Weber Test — a test from the 1950’s in the USA which started the school testing regimes.
Children’s netball game
The tests that are used in the assessment of the fitness of school age children have been carefully selected to be appropriate to their level. Some tests been adapted using lower weights, distances and times, and using simple instructions and modified equipment, while there are others are the same test procedures as used for adults.
Here are some tests that have been designed specifically for testing the young, or are common tests that have been modified to suit testing of children. There are many other tests on the complete Fitness Testing List that would also be suitable for testing children.
- Body Mass Index — in a world where excess weight in children (and adults!) is becoming a bigger problem, it is important to monitor body fat levels. The body mass index takes into account the child’s height, and is therefore better than just using body weight.
- Flexed Arm Hang — This test measures upper body relative strength and endurance. It has been adapted from the chin up test, as children and those with weak upper body strength are not able to do any chin ups at all. This test involves grabbing an overhead bar with arms bent and chin at the level of the bar, and trying to hold this position for as long as possible.
- Chair Push Up — Another test of upper body strength and endurance, this variation of the push-up test places the hands on the edge of a chair so that there is less upper body resistance.
- Sit and Reach Test — The sit and reach test measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstring muscles. The test involves sitting on the floor with legs out straight ahead, and then reaching as far forward as possible.
- Partial CurlUp Test — The sit up or curl up test measures abdominal strength and endurance. The child lies on the floor with knees flexed. The subject curls up their trunk then lowers back to the floor, repeating this as many times as they can.
- 10 meter Agility Shuttle — agility is tested by moving wooden blocks between two lines 10 meters apart.
- Endurance Walk Test — The purpose of this test is to complete one mile in the fastest possible time, either walking or running.
- Beep Test — The beep test is a maximal exercise test to measure aerobic fitness. It involves running up and down a 20m track in time to increasingly faster beep signals. It is a maximal test, which means that the person must run until they are physically exhausted. There is no reason children should not be doing a maximal exercise test (it is more a problem for adults with sedentary lifestyles and other health issues doing the test with no preparation!). The test can be a great motivation tool for children to improve and learn to push themselves. Kids are pretty hardy things and there is no need to be soft on them!
- For infants, height can be measured using recumbent height.
- FAQ about fitness testing children
- poll: What age is appropriate to start fitness testing children?
- Brockport Physical Fitness Test (BPFT) — health-related tests of physical fitness, appropriate for use with youngsters with disabilities.
- Fitness Testing for Specific Groups and Age Group Testing
- Testing the Elderly
- Fitness Testing for the Obese and Overweight
Brockport Physical Fitness Test
Fitness is important for all students. The Brockport Physical Fitness Test protocols and adapted fitness zone standards can be used. The Brockport Physical Fitness Test is specifically designed to assess the fitness of youth with disabilities from ages 10 through 17.
The Brockport assessment protocols and affiliated standards can be found in the Brockport Physical Fitness Test manual (© 2015 Joseph Winnick). Portions of the manual including those addressing test selection, administration and standards are available here.
Assessing K-3 Students
It is not recommended that formal fitness assessments be conducted on students in grades K-3. At this early age, students should simply be introduced to the assessment items in a fun and engaging way and, potentially, as a tool to help them learn age-appropriate concepts about health, fitness and physical activity.
The PYFP Fitness Club can help K-3 students learn the protocols and earn recognition for their efforts all while having fun!
6 Fitness Tests to Gauge Your Overall Progress
Every now and then (once every four to six weeks), it’s crucial to test how well your body can move.
Measuring your fitness tangibles—strength, speed, power, endurance, etc.—allows you to establish starting points against which achievable goals can be set.
Performing fitness tests at regular intervals can help you track your progress towards reaching those goals.
These tests measure several components of athletic performance, meaning the ability to respond effectively to various physical demands. You can also use Aaptiv’s workouts to test your bodies fitness capabilities.
These tests require zero or little equipment so you can do them at home, on the go, or at the gym.
Do these six fitness tests to push your limits and track your journey to becoming a stronger, more advanced athlete.
Test 1: Dead Hang
Physical Ability: Support Grip Strength
Equipment Needed: Pull-up bar or sturdy overhead structure
Support grip strength is a grip that involves maintaining a hold on something for a long period of time. Your fingers, forearms, back, and arm muscles must be strengthened to increase support grip. Aside from holding more groceries on the way into the house, support grip can also help you get better at pull-ups, deadlifts, and even playing with energy-filled kids.
How To Do It
Start the timer on a stopwatch. Grip a pull-up bar, or any sturdy overhead structure, with a pronated (overhand) grip using both hands. Your arms should be hanging straight down with your shoulders pushed back; hang on for as long as you can. Beginners should try to hold on for one minute, holding on in increments of 15-30 seconds. Intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiasts can work up to a two minute hold.
Test 2: 1.5 Mile Run
Physical Ability: Aerobic Capacity
Equipment Needed: At least ¼ mile of outdoor running space
Aerobic capacity is the maximum rate at which someone can produce energy through using carbohydrates, fats, and proteins as energy sources. It’s usually measured as a volume of oxygen consumed per kilogram of bodyweight per minute. The one-and-a-half mile run is best performed outdoors since it will best estimate how your body consumes oxygen. Runners, triathletes, obstacle course racers, or anyone looking to get more fit can benefit from improving their one-and-a-half mile run time.
Start the stopwatch and run as quickly as possible at a steady pace that you can barely maintain over the entire distance. If running on a 400-meter track, six laps would be one-and-a-half miles. Otherwise, use a watch that tracks distance or a cell phone app to measure one-and-a-half miles. Intermediate athletes should aim for 12-18 minutes while advanced athletes should go for under 12 minutes.
Test 3: Maximum Burpees in 5 Minutes
Physical Ability: Aerobic Capacity, Functional Strength
The burpee is a full body exercise that is generally broken into four positions: chest to ground position, standing, a jump into the air, and hands over ears. The move is a good indicator of leg/upper body strength and cardiorespiratory fitness. The Spartan SGX Coach Fit Test calls for doing as many burpees as possible in five minutes; this might be because if you fail an obstacle at a Spartan Race, you must complete 30 burpees.
From a standing position, do a squat, making sure to keep your back straight and core engaged. Place both hands on the ground underneath you and jump both legs back so that you’re in a push-up position. Do a push-up so that your chest touches the ground; return to the low squat position. Now, jump up with your feet off the ground and raise your hands above your ears. For women, anywhere between 30 and 80 is a good goal with 80 burpees for ages 20-29 being ideal. For men, anywhere from 40-85 is a nice target, with 85 burpees being a good finish for ages 20-29.
Test 4: 300 Yard Shuttle
Physical Ability: Anaerobic Capacity
Anaerobic capacity is the most amount of energy you can produce by the phosphagen and glycolytic energy systems for 30-90 seconds. These two energy systems use carbohydrates for energy during workouts. CrossFitters, obstacle course racers, and soccer, football, and hockey players are used to this “stop-and-go” type of movement.
How to Do It
Set up a running lane so that there are two horizontal parallel lines 25 yards apart. Begin behind one of the lines. Start the timer and sprint to the line that’s 25 yards away, making foot contact with it; then, sprint back to the first line. Do six round trips (12 total trips). For recreational male and female athletes, 70-80 seconds is a good time.
Test 5: Broad Jump
Physical Ability: Muscular Power
The broad jump, or long jump, measures how far you can jump in front of you. While this test is measured in feet and inches, it’s also an indicator of anaerobic power—the ability of muscles to produce a lot of force quickly. The broad jump literally takes about one second, so it’s important to learn how to properly load up the energy in your muscles and release it for takeoff.
Set down a tape measure vertically on the ground. Start with both feet perpendicular to and behind the “0.” Do this test on a surface that isn’t concrete in case you fall forward/backward, and to avoid a hard landing in general. Get into a comfortable upright stance with feet shoulder-width apart. Pump both arms backward as you slightly bend the knees and push your butt back. Explosively jump forward and up using both arms to assist. Land on both feet, with heels touching the ground; where the back of your heel land is the number of inches you jumped.
Test 6: Bodyweight Conditioning
Physical Ability: Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance is the ability of certain muscles to perform repeated contractions against a light load. Basically, endurance measures how many reps you can do or how long your muscles can withstand stress. This test contains three exercises and gauges the endurance of your upper body and core muscles.
- Maximum Push-ups in Two Minutes: Get into the top of a push-up position by placing hands shoulder-width apart and elbows and body straight. Women can start on their knees, with ankles raised and crossed. For men, bend your elbows and lower yourself towards the ground until your chest hits the ground. Women can make torso contact with a foam roller on the ground below them. Push yourself back up to the starting position so that your arms are straight. Intermediate fitness enthusiasts should aim for ten to 19 pushups, while more advanced trainees will go for 20+ reps.
- Maximum Pull-ups Without Letting Go: Using an overhand grip, place your hands wider than shoulder width on a pull-up bar. Engage your abs and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Beginners can use an assisted pull-up machine or record how much of one pull-up they can do, whether it be one-quarter or a half; once you let go of the bar, this portion of the test is over. Beginners will not be able to do a single pullup which is OK! Intermediate fitness folks should be able to do three pull-ups, while advanced athletes should aim for four to ten reps for three sets.
- Maximum Sit-ups in Two Minutes: Lie on your back with knees bent at 90 degrees. Place your hands behind your ears. Bring your torso towards your knees, until the elbows touch the knees; return back to the starting position. You may want to anchor your feet under a ledge or have a partner hold your feet down with their hands or knees. Beginners will do 20-40, while more advanced athletes will aim for 50-80 situps in two minutes.
For these kinds of workouts and more, be sure to to work out to the newest class releases.
Mark Barroso, NSCA-CPT is a certified personal trainer, Spartan SGX Coach, writer, and founder of Barrosofit, a digital resource to inspire people of all ages to reach happiness and purpose through physical activity.
Could You Pass Your Kid’s Middle School Fitness Test?
For a middle school-aged kid, there’s not much worse than being forced to do pull-ups in front of your peers. Steven Errico/Getty Images
Few of my middle school memories are as distinct as the ones involving a pull-up bar. To be more specific: the ones of me avoiding the pull-up bar at all costs. To this day, after 200-plus hours of yoga training and far too many hours test-driving workout trends, I still cannot do a single pull-up. While that failing no longer affects my life in any substantial way, in seventh grade, the shame was palpable.
That’s because I was one of the millions of American kids subjected to the public humiliation otherwise known as the Presidential Fitness Test, a battery of physical feats designed to assess the health of school-age children. The test has since been retired and replaced by the less arbitrary and more forgiving physical fitness test (known as FITNESSGRAM), but it left a significant mark on scholastic history.
“The physical fitness tests students have to take are in fifth, seventh and ninth grades in public schools in California, and it’s similar in other states as well,” says Marisol Visalli, a San Francisco Bay Area-based physical education teacher and massage therapist. “We are testing to collect data on the five categories of fitness — cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition, which is muscle to fat ratio.”
History Behind the Hype
It all started in the early 1950s when fitness activists Dr. Hans Kraus and Bonnie Prudden administered exercise tests to thousands of kids throughout the United States, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. U.S. kids came up shockingly short: 58 percent of them failed the tests, compared to just 8 percent of the European kids.
President Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t pleased. He took action by forming the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956 to seek out strategies for improving American kids’ fitness scores. Concern mounted by the time John F. Kennedy took office. In 1960, he penned a Sports Illustrated op-ed about the perceived problem. An excerpt: “In a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.”
And so, in 1966, the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge commenced — a competition of sorts designed to “encourage and prepare young Americans for the physical demands of military service,” according to NPR. The challenge included activities like the softball throw, the shuttle-run, and, of course, the dreaded pull-up. To earn the coveted Physical Fitness Awards, kids would have to place in the top 85th percentile based on national standards.
The problem with all this testing (which, by the way, was usually done in the most public of settings, in front of one’s peers), was that, according to experts, it didn’t resemble the Kraus-Weber tests in any way. Rather than focusing on core and arm strength and improved flexibility, the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge simply reflected the goals and priorities of the country and people who’d formed their fitness philosophy during training in World War II, author Greg Critser explains in his book “Fatland.”
President Johnson wound up changing the group’s name to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, but the tests remained consistent, and the pool of award winners was reduced to just the top 15 percent of athletically gifted students.
Years later, in 2012, the test was finally abolished and replaced by a more comprehensive fitness program designed to support individual goals rather than prescribe a standard fitness regimen. According to NPR, the change was the result of decades of negative feedback from both students and teachers. “The test was totally backward,” physical education teacher Joanna Faerber told the outlet. “We knew who was going to be last, and we were embarrassing them. We were pointing out their weakness.”
The physical fitness tests administered in schools across the U.S. have changed since President Dwight Eisenhower formed the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956. Big Cheese Photo
Fitness Testing Today
So where does that leave us now? And why are teachers still “testing” kids at all? “The reason for the tests I believe is basically to collect data so the state knows fitness levels of different demographics and counties/schools/cities/etc.,” Visalli says. “But we teachers do our best to turn it into goal-setting and teaching students about their bodies. We also turn it into awards for students with the most improvements, best scores, etc. to create some buy-in and get them motivated to be fit people.”
While the current program continues to focus on specific areas of fitness, there’s a decidedly less militaristic approach to all of it. For instance, Visalli says there are different options for each of the five categories that are tested. For cardiovascular fitness, kids can either run 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) or do the PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) test; for muscular endurance there are several options, including the curl up test, flex arm hang or push-ups; for flexibility they can do either sit-and-reach stretch, or the shoulder stretch test.
As for body composition, Visalli says the common approach is to crunch height and weight data, but “some schools still use the antiquated skinfold measurement, which is total crap and makes kids feel horrible,” she says. “This test is pretty stupid in my opinion because science has gone far beyond the understanding that height and weight data alone dictates your body composition, because we know that muscle weighs more than fat, but that isn’t included in the data.”
So how many kids do well on this test? “The number of kids that pass usually depends on the school,” Visalli says. “In Burlingame for example, where I teach, most kids pass — I’d say 85 percent — but that has to do with a lot more than just our awesome physical education teachers.” She explains that the kids in her community are really active outside of school. Whereas, in more urban or even rural or poorer areas, the number of kids that pass could be much lower for many reasons. “Kids not being active outside of school due to lack of money, opportunity, program options — the list goes on,” Visalli says.
State requirements vary, but in California, students in grades five, seven, and nine are required to participate in the following tests via the options listed:
- PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run)
- One-Mile Run
- Walk Test (only for ages 13 or older)
Abdominal Strength and Endurance
Upper Body Strength and Endurance
- Modified Pull-Up
- Flexed-Arm Hang
- Skinfold Measurements
- Body Mass Index
- Bioelectric Impedance Analyzer
Trunk Extensor Strength and Flexibility
- Trunk Lift
- Back-Saver Sit and Reach
- Shoulder Stretch
If you got winded just reading all that, take heart: Apparently it’s not impossible for adults to perform well on the tests, but their results aren’t typically compared to those of kids. “Yes, I can pass the tests,” Visalli says. “However, the tests are intended with different ‘healthy fitness zones’ for different ages and genders. The scores differ according to those factors. For example, boys are expected to do more push-ups once puberty hits because of how hormones help them develop broader shoulders and more muscle mass then girls. So ‘passing’ as an adult is relative because the passing scores are meant to really only go up to around 17 or 18, when a student would still be taking the tests in high school P.E.”
Curious where you’d rank? Check out the FITNESSGRAM Healthy Fit Zone Performance Standards here. But take all those numbers with a grain of salt and don’t stress if you can’t do a single pull-up. Turns out it matters a lot less in life than we were led to believe in junior high.