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W4P EDITORIAL: Fitness tests negatively impact gym classes

Fitness+tests+create+a+unnecessary+and+potentially+unhealthy+sense+of+competition.
Fitness tests create a unnecessary and potentially unhealthy sense of competition.

Fitness tests create a unnecessary and potentially unhealthy sense of competition.

Editorial Cartoon: Jennifer Reis

Editorial Cartoon: Jennifer Reis

Fitness tests create a unnecessary and potentially unhealthy sense of competition.

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Imagine you are taking your semester one math exam. Once you finish, you hand it in to the teacher, who will grade it by the next class. When you come to class on Monday, everyone’s individual scores are up on the whiteboard. Students gather around, not only to see their own scores, but also to see their peers. Everyone knows who scored the best, and who scored the worst. This is essentially what happens in the many different fitness assessments that ninth graders are required to participate in, in Fitness for Life, a one semester course on how to remain active and healthy throughout one’s life. These assessments include the sit and reach test, push up test, sit up test, pacer test and shuttle run. While these activities are meant to be an exercise in goal setting and self achievement, they are a source of real stress for a lot of students. Students perform these tests in front of all their peers, and a simple test of physical ability can quickly turn into a session of self loathing, and body shaming.

While the fitness tests are supposed to be about individual growth, students are still constantly comparing their scores to other people. This can have a huge impact on a student’s confidence and self esteem.  Even if a student is trying their best, their best might be different from someone else’s best. The entire focus of Fitness for Life is supposed to be on finding ways to stay healthy and active, and to enjoy exercise. When students start to associate exercise with this negative experience of comparison and insecurity, they might be less likely to continue exercising throughout their life. Exercise should be fun, not stressful. Fitness for Life should focus on giving students productive and enjoyable ways to stay fit and healthy.

While the fitness tests are supposed to be about individual growth, students are still constantly comparing their scores to other people. This can have a huge impact on a student’s confidence and self esteem.”

These fitness tests are not just SPA trying to torture those of us who don’t score as high as others, but they are actually part of an official presidential program. They were started in 1988, and then rebooted in 2012, in an effort to make the tests more focused on lifelong fitness. While the tests may be an attempt at making students behave in a healthier manner for life, they do not succeed in doing so. While some students might find the fitness tests fun, or not stressful, the majority of talk surrounding these tests is incredibly negative. Students can be heard bragging to their friends about how they didn’t even try, and it was no big deal, even though they scored highest in the class. Some students decide simply not trying is better than dealing with the embarrassment of trying and not succeeding. Others dread these tests, and remain quiet, as the rest of the students compare scores.

One of the main causes for eating disorders is being self conscious of one’s body. If a student feels like their body is less valued than another’s, this could lead them to become more self conscious. This culture around athleticism and fitness could be very damaging to students, and even exacerbate the symptoms of eating disorders.

Essentially, these fitness tests are pointless and harmful. Fitness class could be much more enjoyable without the stress of tests. Students should look forward to fitness as a class in which they don’t have to worry about academics or other stress inducers. Working out should never be stressful. Keep in mind, these fitness tests are only about two days of classes. These two days could easily be spent doing something fun and active, that teach students new ways to stay fit. If fitness tests were cut from the program, all students would benefit.

This piece is a collaborative effort of the spring semester of the Writing for Publication II class, as part of their Opinions writing unit.

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