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Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 530 in 2007 which mandates annual fitness testing within the public schools for grades 3-12 using the FITNESSGRAM®. Preliminary results from the first year indicated that fewer than 25% of middle school girls and 20% of middle school boys achieved the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) on all six tests (Texas Education Association, 2008). These data indicate that lack of physical activity and fitness are real concerns for students in Texas, a problem that becomes progressively worse as students matriculate through high school. Although the state is collecting and reporting aggregate data, these data are limited because they only address fitness status.
As the state enters year three in the implementation of this policy, our research team is collaborating with six middle schools on a longitudinal study to examine the influence of physical activity and fitness, psychological health, food choices and nutrition, and family and social environment on academic performance, school attendance, negative school incidents, and negative health outcomes. Our preliminary results indicate that middle school students who were healthy in terms of the cardiovascular fitness and body composition also performed better on their TAKS tests (in particular math), had stronger and more positive views about their physical abilities (i.e., strength, endurance, flexibility), were happier and more satisfied with their lives, and were more satisfied with the size and shape of their bodies and faces. Determining the key factors thought to impact these physical and mental health outcomes is important for developing appropriate interventions for adolescence, the critical period of life between puberty and adulthood.