More than half of the fifth and seventh graders tested successfully met five of the six targets in the annual California Physical Fitness Test, while two-thirds of the ninth graders tested achieved five of the targets, according to recently released test results.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced the California Physical Fitness Test results Monday, November 30th at Kentwood Elementary School in Westchester. The test, also known as the FITNESSGRAM, was given during the 2008-09 school year to more than 1.38 million students in fifth, seventh and ninth grades.

“I am pleased that our students continue to make strides toward becoming physically fit,” O’Connell said. “The percentage of students who are in the healthy fitness zone is increasing. However, as a state we must continue to improve.

“National statistics show that today’s children are twice as likely to be overweight than their counterparts of the 1980s. Teenagers today are three times as likely to be overweight as those in the 1980s. Our students must take responsibility for their fitness, health, and overall well-being so they can compete on the playing field, in the classroom, and on the global stage.”

The FITNESSGRAM assesses a total of six fitness areas — aerobic capacity, body composition, abdominal strength, trunk extensor strength, upper body strength and flexibility. In the last school year, a greater percentage of students met all six test benchmarks in the Healthy Fitness Zone compared to last year, results show.

Kentwood Elementary School officials said they were pleased with their students’ improvements in the fitness test.

“This is our school’s third year in this program and our participation has continued to soar,” said Principal Jean Pennicooke. “Not only are our immediate families involved, our parents have even encouraged their co-workers to sign up. It is incredible how this has exponentially grown just by word-of-mouth.”

Roberta Guarnieri is the Kentwood teacher who initially learned of this program. She said she saw the “Governor’s Fitness Challenge” as an opportunity to augment the school’s physical education activities and to encourage students to be physically active after school and on weekends.

“I knew that several of our students were engaged in team sports and practice, and this was a way to further recognize their activeness by logging the number of their active days online,” said Guarnieri. “But since the challenge did not necessarily require very many active days in a week, it gave a chance for other students to track themselves as well, not to mention parents who may also need the reminder to stay active.”

O’Connell encouraged all schools to join in the program to stay healthy and fit.

O’Connell was joined in the release of FITNESSGRAM results by Jake Steinfeld, chairman of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting physical activity for all Californians, with an emphasis on children and youth.

Schools are invited to participate in the 2010 Governor’s Fitness Challenge Competition by signing up at: