FITNESSGRAM Study Shows Boys Still More Fit Than Girls

Yang Bai Graduate research assistant Department of Kinesiology College of Human Science Iowa State University, Ames, Interview with:
Yang Bai

Graduate research assistant
Department of Kinesiology
College of Human Science
Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Yang Bai: The last national youth physical fitness survey that covered the full developmental age range was conducted more than 25 years ago. A new study conducted by The Cooper Institute known as the NFL PLAY 60 FITNESSGRAM Partnership Project offers potential to study youth fitness on a national level. The NFL PLAY 60 FITNESSGRAM Partnership Project is a participatory research network that tracks health and fitness data from over 1000 schools across the country.

The present study describes the distribution of health-related fitness in 1st-12th grade youth from this large nationwide sample of schools. The main finding included that the fitness levels varied greatly based on gender and age and the percentage of youth had adequate aerobic fitness and healthy BMI were low. For example, there were 62.1% to 37.6% (different from grade 4th to 12th) boys meeting the requirements for healthy aerobic capacity, and the range for girls were 50.8%to 26.1%. Aerobic capacity among boys started to decline in the sixth grade, while girls experienced a continual decline with age. There was less variation among boys and girls with a healthy BMI, which ranged 52.7% to 65.0%.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Yang Bai: There is clear room for improvement in fitness achievement in both aerobic capacity and BMI. Special attention may be warranted for periods in the early adolescent years to ensure that youth have sufficient opportunities for physical activity and fitness. These are years where lifetime patterns begin to form, therefore, it is important to increase attention on programming and policies during this critical developmental period.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Yang Bai: These results reinforce the need for early intervention to prevent or delay the decline in physical activity during the early adolescent years.


J Pediatr. 2015 Sep;167(3):662-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.05.035. Epub 2015 Jul 15.

Prevalence of Youth Fitness in the United States: Baseline Results from the NFL PLAY 60 FITNESSGRAM Partnership Project.

Bai Y1, Saint-Maurice PF2, Welk GJ2, Allums-Featherston K3, Candelaria N3, Anderson K3. is not a forum for the exchange of personal medical information, advice or the promotion of self-destructive behavior (e.g., eating disorders, suicide). While you may freely discuss your troubles, you should not look to the Website for information or advice on such topics. Instead, we recommend that you talk in person with a trusted medical professional.

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Yang Bai (2015). FITNESSGRAM Study Shows Boys Still More Fit Than Girls