Do fitness tests do more harm than good? - Education Matters Magazine
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Do fitness tests do more harm than good?

Whether it was a beep test or shuttle run, most people remember fitness tests in school. But can early experiences of compulsory fitness influence a person’s current views of physical exercise (PE)?

In an Australian first, researchers at the University of South Australia are investigating children’s attitudes and experiences of fitness testing to understand how obligatory PE tests could affect future exercise.

The study is timely given that more than 80% of Australian children are not meeting national guidelines for physical activity and 25% of Australian children and teens are experiencing overweight or obesity.

UniSA researcher and PhD candidate Daiki Kasai said the new research hopes to identify optimal cardiovascular testing options for Australian children.

“Measuring children’s fitness is important because it not only shows how healthy they are now, but how healthy they may be in the future,” Kasai said.

“Fitness testing is embedded into physical education curriculums internationally to assess children’s cardiorespiratory fitness.

“The 20-metre shuttle-run (20mSRT) is the most popular test used in schools. Here, participants run repeatedly between two parallel lines 20 metres apart, in time with an audio ‘beep’ that gets progressively faster until they reach exhaustion.

“The problem is, however, that exhaustive tests like this may evoke unpleasant emotional responses. Negative responses during exercise can be a strong predictor of future exercise participation. So, it is important to consider the emotional responses to current fitness tests used in Australia.”

Kasai said the study aims to understand what children feel about fitness testing, and how these views and emotions might influence their current and future attitudes about exercise.

“We hope that the results from this study can inform future practice and policies around how fitness tests are being conducted in Australia,” he said.

“We want children to enjoy exercise, so understanding how fitness tests are currently being used in Australia and how children feel about fitness tests is important, especially if we’re to improve children’s overall fitness and health.”

Researchers are now working with children aged 10 to 17 years and are looking to recruit additional participants to complete a survey.

Parents and caregivers can find out more and register interest by visiting:

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