Fitness Better Among Orange County Students, but Inequities Persist

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The latest results of a state physical fitness test show Orange County students scored a bit better than students California-wide but that fitness gaps persist between the county’s affluent and lower-income school districts.

On average, 38 percent of Orange County students excelled on all six areas of the test, while the state figure was 31 percent, according to a report on the scores released this week by the California Department of Education.

A significant percentage of low-income students struggled with the two most important areas of the test, aerobic capacity and body composition, which refers to their percentage of body fat. Other tests included flexibility and abdominal strength.

More than 110,000 students took the test in Orange County. Results are available online, and they vary by district.

For example, 87 percent of 7th graders in the Irvine Unified School District passed their aerobic test, while 76 percent passed body composition. At Anaheim Union High School District, meanwhile, 69 percent of 7th graders passed the aerobic test and 52 percent passed body composition.

On the body composition portion, 35 percent of Anaheim Union 7th graders were considered in the high-risk group, meaning their body mass index (BMI) scores were unhealthy. In Irvine, 13 percent of 7th graders had high-risk BMIs.

Overall, 27 percent of disadvantaged students in the county passed all six areas of the test compared to 51 percent from more affluent areas.

A number of initiatives are underway to offer lower-income children the opportunity to play outside and improve their fitness. The programs are vital as gym memberships, organized sports and high school sports are not financially affordable for everyone, community and health activists say.

Amy DePaul is a Voice of OC contributing writer and lecturer in the University of California, Irvine Literary Journalism program. You can reach her directly at depaula@uci.edu

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