Fitnessgram is a comprehensive educational, reporting and promotional tool used to assess physical fitness and physical activity levels for children. It is the most widely used children's health-related physical fitness assessment in the world.
Fitnessgram provides accurate assessment reports unique to each student according to their age, gender, and level of health-related fitness based on multiple components rather than just a single measure. These reports use the criterion-referenced Healthy Fitness Zone® standards, which research has shown to accurately measure the level of physical fitness necessary for good health.
Benefits of Fitnessgram reports include
- aiding students with individual goal-setting and teachers with program-planning
- providing communication tools for teachers, administrators, parents and guardians,
- educating students about how to improve their overall health, and
- providing an electronic report through email, saving paper and secures student privacy.
Fitnessgram software also features powerful data management and statistical reporting tools that support data-driven decision making. These features make it easy to implement Fitnessgram throughout school systems of all sizes. In addition, they measure outcomes that support curriculum goals, allowing educators to effectively advocate for physical education programs.
The latest version of software, Fitnessgram 10, offers a valuable technological improvement--a fully hosted solution that removes the need to purchase servers and involve IT staff in installing the program. Consistent with the worldwide move to hosted software, Fitnessgram 10 data is hosted on servers at The Cooper Institute (the home of FGs founders and developers). A modest annual subscription fee provides complete hosting, full technical support, updates, and upgrades as they become available.
While the hosted approach to software is highly beneficial to customers, it may not meet the needs of some schools, districts, or states that want Fitnessgram 10 to be installed on their own servers. To meet this need, Fitnessgram 10 will continue to be available in an Enterprise Version.
Activitygram / Activity Log
The Activitygram component of the software is an activity assessment tool that enables students to record their physical activity in 30-minute increments over a three-day period. The software generates a report showing total minutes of activity, periods of activity time each day, and type of activity.
The Activity Log component allows students to track their physical activity, either in step counts or minutes of activity for each day. Teachers can issue challenges to students to increase their physical activity, and depending on the version of the software used, challenges can be issued from class-to-class or even school-to-school.
Both Activitygram and Activity Log support Fitnessgram by emphasizing the need for at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
Fitnessgram test items were selected to assess important aspects of a student's health related fitness, not skill or agility.
The ability to perform large muscle, high intensity exercise for prolonged periods.
- 1-Mile run
- Walk Test
The ability of the muscles to exert an external force.
- 90 Push-ups
- Trunk lift
The ability of muscles to exert themselves repeatedly.
The range of motion available in a joint.
- Back-Saver Sit and Reach
- Shoulder Stretch
The relative percentage of muscles, fat, bone and other tissues that comprise the body.
- Skinfold Measurements
- Bioelectric Impedance Analyzers
Fitnessgram is based on the H.E.L.P. philosophy. This philosophy teaches the value and benefits of lifelong physical activity as well as the idea that physical activity can and should be fun, making students more likely to become and remain physically active throughout their lives:
Health is for
Everyone, it's for a
Lifetime, and it should be
(Note: The HELP acronym was developed by Dr. Charles Corbin, a leading researcher in youth fitness, co-author of the personal fitness text, Fitness for Life, and an original member of the Fitnessgram Scientific Advisory Board.)
Healthy Fitness Zone® Standards
Fitnessgram is unique, and widely accepted, because the fitness assessments are evaluated using criterion-referenced standards. The advantage of criterion-referenced standards--as compared to percentile norms--is they are based on the levels of fitness that research has shown to be necessary for good health. The amount of fitness needed for health differs between boys and girls, and it varies across age. The Fitnessgram Healthy Fitness Zone standards have been developed to take this into account.
Nationally recognized experts on the Fitnessgram Scientific Advisory Board evaluate research, assess best practices, and adjust the Healthy Fitness Zone® standards, calculations, and protocols to match the best science available. With more than 30 years of experience, this renowned board is dedicated to ensuring that Fitnessgram remains the best tool for using fitness assessments, reporting, data analysis, and communication to support fitness education.
The Fitnessgram program classifies fitness levels using discrete zones to allow for more personalized feedback. The two primary zones are the Healthy Fitness Zone® (HFZ) and the Needs Improvement (NI) Zone; however, for aerobic capacity and body composition two distinct NI zones are used to make further distinctions in fitness. The use of three zones makes it possible to provide more effective prescriptive messages to youth, since the zones are based on clear differences in potential health risks. Descriptions of the zones are provided below:
- Healthy Fitness Zone. The goal in Fitnessgram is for children to achieve the Healthy Fitness Zone on as many assessments as possible. Because only modest amounts of activity are needed to obtain health benefits, most students who perform regular physical activity will be able to achieve a score that will place them within or above the Healthy Fitness Zone on most Fitnessgram test items. If children are in the Healthy Fitness Zone they are considered to have sufficient fitness for good health.
- Needs Improvement (NI) indicates that if the student continues to track at this level there is the potential for future health risks. However, this potential is possible, not probable. Increased activity as well as eating a healthy controlled diet could delay or reverse this potential risk. Children in the NI Zone receive messaging on their Fitnessgram reports explaining how they should strive to move into the HFZ.
- Needs Improvement (NI) - Health Risk indicates that if the student continues to track at this level there is a clear potential for future health problem (a more probable risk). The need for increased activity and eating a healthy diet is more urgent for students in this category than those at Needs Improvement. Children in the NI-Health Risk Zone receive messages warning them of probable risk if they continue tracking at this level. The use of three zones allows clear indicators of risk (NI-Health Risk) and clear indicators of good fitness and low risk (HFZ).
Both body composition and aerobic capacity have particularly important influences on health but the effects are generally considered to be independent. People who are physically active will generally have higher levels of aerobic fitness and lower levels of fatness. However, it is possible for youth to be overweight and still be aerobically fit or for youth to be of normal weight and be aerobically unfit.
Aerobic capacity does not directly impact body composition, but body composition is a critical factor in the exercise performances used to estimate aerobic capacity. Individuals who carry more body fat will often perform more poorly than if they had less body fat. Therefore, the two dimensions are related, but still independent. Individuals with low aerobic capacity should be encouraged to be more active to improve their aerobic capacity (and possibly their body composition). Individuals with unhealthy body composition are also encouraged to be more active, but a healthy low-calorie diet is also important for changing body composition.
Body composition and aerobic capacity are clearly linked, resulting in the need to use a common health indicator--preferably one that reflects overall health--for the Healthy Fitness Zone standards in two areas. The presence of metabolic syndrome was selected as the primary outcome variable for determining appropriate aerobic capacity and body composition standards since it is related to both indicators.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized as a clustering of risk factors that influence risk for diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease. The five risk factors that are incorporated into metabolic syndrome include
- high fasting glucose,
- high waist circumference,
- high triglycerides,
- low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and
- high blood pressure.
Studies have demonstrated that risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome track throughout the lifespan. Therefore, it is a good indicator of both current and future health risk.
Additional information on the research and development of the FITNESSGRAM standards can be accessed at www.cooperinstitute.org/reference-guide.
Aerobic Capacity and Body Composition
The following information provides additional detail on the Aerobic Capacity and Body Composition Healthy Fitness Zone standards.
Aerobic capacity is evaluated using estimates of VO2max (also known as maximal oxygen intake). This indicator reflects the maximum rate that the respiratory, cardiovascular, and muscular systems can take in, transport, and use oxygen during exercise. Good aerobic capacity (cardiorespiratory fitness) has been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, and some forms of cancer. The Fitnessgram program provides three field tests to assess aerobic capacity: PACER, 1-Mile run, and the Walk test. All Aerobic Capacity HFZ scores are reported as estimates of VO2max. Higher VO2max scores reflect a greater ability to take in and use oxygen and a greater potential to perform endurance exercise.
In the earlier Fitnessgram 8 and Fitnessgram 9 versions of the software, the PACER, and 1-Mile Run are scored using the same equation. The equation takes into account the child's BMI (which is calculated from height and weight). Therefore, entry of height and weight are required in order to estimate VO2max when these tests are used. If not, an Incomplete will be recorded.
In the Fitnessgram 10 software, estimates of VO2max from the PACER test will no longer require the availability of height and weight information. However, the 1-Mile run and Walk test will continue to utilize the same calculations as FG8 & FG9, which requires height and weight. The adoption of a simplified PACER equation in Fitnessgram 10 will make it easier for teachers to use the PACER test and interpret it for their students. Schools will note some differences in the percentage of youth achieving the Healthy Fitness Zone with the new PACER equation but no changes would be evident with the use of the 1-mile run or walk tests.
Body composition describes what part of total body weight is fat, and what part is fat free. Fat-free body weight includes bones and muscles. Some body fat is needed for overall good health but too much can lead to health problems. Body composition is one of the components used by Fitnessgram to assess health-related fitness. Fitnessgram body composition standards are based on percent body fat. Although an assessment of percent body fat utilizing a bioelectric impendence device or skin-fold assessment would be ideal, practical application in schools is very difficult. Therefore, Fitnessgram also provides standards for a widely used alternative indicator of body composition known as Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is based on weight relative to height and essentially indicates if the weight is appropriate for the height. BMI cannot measure fat directly, but it can help assess health risks related to a body weight that is too great or too little for the height. Fitnessgram BMI standards for youth take into account age and gender.
The Cooper Institute, developer of Fitnessgram, and the Fitnessgram Scientific Advisory Board believe it is important to educate youth and parents about appropriate levels of body composition. Overweight youth are at a higher risk for becoming overweight adults. Therefore, by maintaining a healthy weight a child can potentially reduce their future risk of health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Very low levels of body fat may also indicate future health risks. Remember, some fat is necessary for good health. Body composition can be influenced by many factors, including age, gender, and heredity.
In Fitnessgram 8 and Fitnessgram 9 software, the BMI standards were set to correspond with the established, health-related body fat standards. However, recent analyses determined that the widely used CDC growth chart values had similar clinical utility as the Fitnessgram BMI standards for detecting risk of metabolic syndrome. Based on these findings, the Fitnessgram Scientific Advisory Board decided to modify the Fitnessgram standards so that they coincide with the CDC cut points. The alignment of BMI standards will enable youth to receive consistent information from Fitnessgram and the CDC/Growth Charts, which are commonly used by pediatricians. The Fitnessgram HFZ standards now coincide with the CDC categorization of "normal weight". The two associated Needs Improvement zones in Fitnessgram (NI - Some Risk and NI - Health Risk) also match the respective CDC values used to categorize youth as "overweight" and "obese". This change will be reflected only in the Fitnessgram 10 software.
Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP)
In the fall of 2012, the Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP) adopted FITNESSGRAM. The Presidential Youth Fitness Program is a voluntary program that includes an assessment, professional development, and motivational recognition to empower students to adopt and maintain an active lifestyle.
For more information visit: www.presidentialyouthfitnessprogram.org
NFL PLAY 60 Fitnessgram Project
Fitnessgram is provided in partnership with NFL Foundations as a part of the NFL PLAY 60 program. Since 2009, NFL Foundation (previously NFL Charities) has awarded The Cooper Institute $4 million to support the NFL PLAY 60 campaign, an initiative that challenges youth to be active 60 minutes a day.
The grant will continue NFL Foundation's commitment to fund The Cooper Institute's NFL PLAY 60 Fitnessgram Project, which reaches more than 22 million children in all 50 states. In addition, the grant will support more than 1,100 schools across all NFL team markets taking part in the Cooper Institute NFL PLAY 60 Fitnessgram evaluation study.
For more information visit: www.NFLPLAY60FITNESSGRAM.com
Since 1997, The Cooper Institute has been in a contractual agreement with Human Kinetics, Inc. to conduct the business of selling, distributing, marketing, and supporting Fitnessgram/Activitygram as a product. See History and Development for more about Human Kinetics.
U.S. Games is proud to partner with The Cooper Institute to provide exclusive Fitnessgram-branded equipment packs, cue cards, and poster sets to help you successfully implement Fitnessgram.
About The Cooper Institute
Established in 1970 by Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, The Cooper Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated worldwide to preventive medicine research and education, housing one of the world's largest databases on exercise and health. Each year The Cooper Institute develops engaged learners in fitness and health with its courses and nationally accredited Personal Trainer Certification exam. See History and Development for more about The Cooper Institute.