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A Youth Fitness Revolution

by IHRSA October 2, 2012

This past month, the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) unveiled its new Presidential Youth Fitness Program. At first blush, it may seem like simply an update of the youth test familiar to generations of Americans. But that impression would represent a profound misunderstanding of the intent and content of the new test.

In fact, the Presidential Youth Fitness Program marks a fundamental shift in our national discourse on youth fitness.

As described in the PCFSN program materials, "The Presidential Youth Fitness Program places emphasis on the value of living a physically active and healthy lifestyle - in school and beyond."

Furthermore, Dr. Jayne Greenberg, a member of the PCFSN and school district administrator in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, notes that the program will "focus primarily on assessing health versus athleticism for America's youth."

So, basically, the test is no longer a tool for determining which kids won the athletic gene pool lottery. Now it's about assessing and tracking the health of American children. We at IHRSA wholeheartedly, unequivocally, and most enthusiastically applaud this new approach.

The need for this new test is urgent. While we celebrate the launch of the test, policymakers must also grapple with the "F as in Fat Report" released this month by the Trust for America's Health, which suggests that adult obesity rates could reach 60% in 13 states by 2030. All 50 states, according to the report, could experience obesity rates over 44% within 20 years.

We know that the causes of sedentary, unhealthy behaviors are varied and highly individualized, but surely the stigmatization of being labeled "unathletic" at an early age lingers destructively for many older Americans. In this new era of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, young Americans will learn that physical activity is more than just a pull-up test or rope climb. They will learn that it's a gateway to a happier, healthier, and more productive life, regardless of one's ability to complete 60 sit-ups in one minute.

At IHRSA, we are committed to elevating and celebrating the best health club-based youth programs.

In a recent segment of IHRSA's "Ask an Industry Leader" series, we asked, "In a time when childhood obesity is at the forefront, what are good strategies for children/teen programming to get youth in my community more active and engaged in the club?"

Bill Parisi, Founder and CEO of Parisi Speed School, responded:

Youth fitness is all about motivation and engagement. Kids are noth thinking health and longevity, they want to have fun, be competitive, and most importantly, be accepted by their peers." [I also encourage clubs to] make your program inviting to the non-athlete by hiring staff who truly loves kids. The program itself does not have to be overly complicated, but it should be professional. You should have a respected youth performance brand, credible staff, and an environment that is motivating and professional.

What are some other successful strategies for creating effective youth programming?

Tags: , ,

Childhood Obesity | Schools


10/8/2012 12:09:18 PM #

We use a model based off of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA), creating an environment where youth of similar biological and developmental ages can have fun, learn athleticism, and understand the concepts of teamwork during a class. The groups are broken down into 3 categories: 6-9 years, 10-13 years, and 14+. The sessions are broken down into a dynamic warm-up, skill building, game/activity breakout, movement training, and cool-down. Each developmental group has unique needs and thus properly tailored sessions based on those needs. I think Bill hit it on the head with the notion that the coach needs to create a fun, inclusive, and most importantly positive environment. There is still a necessity for  a competitive atmosphere, prepping children mentally for challenges they will face later in life. However we, as Coaches, can accomplish this with positive instead of negative reinforcement. I am proud to be a part of the movement to get and keep our younger generations active and healthy!

Jared Markiewicz United States |

10/9/2012 9:32:40 PM #

Getting children active is one of the most important tasks of the next generation of teachers, parents, and communities. Nike recently published a report that warned against chronic lack of movement in children. They found that a lack of movement can lead to physical, emotional and economic trouble for children. The study also found that healthy habits for the future of children are formed in the pre-teen years. If the pre-teen years are so wildly important, this blog post gave me a refreshing affirmation that the federal government is taking steps to nurture this formative time.

I remember during gym class all throughout junior high and high school suffering through the Presidential Fitness Tests. Even as a relatively active student, there was always one or two tests that I could never pass (bent arm hang!). This approach of pure testing gave a one-dimensional and competitive nature to being in shape. Rather than encourage positive improvement, these tests made fitness boring and routine. This new approach seems to make fitness about a more holistic approach. Health expert Barbara Robb wrote an article explaining about how food fuels exercise. Without healthy eating and good foods, leading a healthy life will be very hard. In order to combine the President’s new initiative with healthy eating, a number of local communities have created some creative initiatives to lead effective youth programming.

For example, in Azusa, California, the program Healthy Azusa is a partnership between the city, educational institutions, health care services, businesses, and residents to promote wellness for children.  The provide a number of programs such as lobbying for more sidewalks, making safe routes to schools, and encouraging lifestyle decisions for all members of the community that are healthy. By connecting all areas of the community, Azusa is making large strides towards engaging children and parents to engrain healthy lifestyles into everyday activities.

Another community working hard with programming is Alexandria, Virginia. The Childhood Obesity Action Network & Get Healthy Alexandria works to make a healthy life style a reality for the community. Through creative programming that focuses on building playgrounds, healthy kids, access to healthy food everyone, a community garden and more, the connecting and engaging programming makes the effort for health a community effort.

I believe that by encouraging communities to create programming and engage citizens, creating more active lifestyles will become a reality.

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DVetter United States |

10/12/2012 11:09:32 AM #

Awesome article i will share this for sure,youth fitness is a must now aday due to increasing number of obesity.Wanna know (Link Removed) (Link Removed) to get a lean body</a>

Jeff Carter India |

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