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July 1, 2008 (512) 463-0300

TEA RELEASES DATA ON TEXAS KIDS' FITNESS

(AUSTIN) -- Most Texas schoolchildren are unable to meet basic fitness standards, according to preliminary study data released at a press conference Tuesday. Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott called the results "sobering". In the largest study of its kind in the nation, 2.6 million children across the state were tested in six basic fitness categories, including stamina, flexibility, and strength. The study showed that fitness decreased as students get older: in third-grade, 32 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys met acceptable standards in each of the six categories. By the 12th grade, this number had fallen to 9 percent for girls and 8 percent for boys.

"These results just confirm what many of us already knew, that our children's health is in jeopardy," said Senator Jane Nelson of Lewisville. Nelson chairs the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee and authored the bill in 2007 that mandated this study. "We cannot allow an entire generation of Texans to grow up and live a shorter life than previous generations, but it will happen unless we get back to the basics of health in our schools." Nelson said parents and schools must emphasize fitness, good nutrition and re-implement required physical education curriculum if Texas is to get a handle on childhood obesity.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a Dallas-based fitness advocate who's Cooper Institute developed the test used in this study, said obesity levels in children are at an unprecedented level. "Our kids are the fattest and least fit they've been in our lifetime," he said. Childhood obesity is four times more prevalent than it was in 1963, and Cooper says if trends continue, one out of three children born after 2000 will develop adult-onset diabetes. "If we don't do something now, what will happen in the future?" he asked.

The next step, according to Nelson, is to analyze this data to see how it correlates with academic achievement, attendance and discipline. Nelson is confident that analysis will show that poor health and fitness negatively impacts these areas. More than that, she said, the analysis will show lawmakers what they are facing, and will help direct efforts to improve fitness among Texas children. "Children are leading a sedentary, super-sized lifestyle, and its showing.," said Nelson. "But it doesn't have to be this way."

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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