The physical fitness and health of young people is just as important today as it has ever been.  Decades ago, healthy young people were important because they supplied physically fit adults for our armed forces.  Nowadays, fit and healthy children are more likely to place less strain on health services.

Whilst it is generally accepted that the physical fitness of young people is important, there is little agreement in how to achieve it.  Some worry that standard fitness tests can be embarassing to those that do not perform well.  This lack of direction is in stark contrast to the assessment of academic performance, which is tightly regulated.  Therefore youth physical literacy may be the best way forward.


Assessing the health of young people

Traditional fitness assessments may include tests of cardiovascular health, flexibility, power and strength.  Examples of such test could include the Multi Stage Fitness Test, 12 minute Cooper run, Sit and Reach, Vertical Jump, Standing Jump and grip strength.  These tests of fitness are valid and reliable when carried out by an expereinced assessor.  They provide a cross sectional snapshot of fitness in a youth population.

A comprehensive assessment of physical fitness takes time and money.  These are things that many school’s lack.  The other issue is that fitness tests assess physical fitness very specifically.  Therefore, they only tell you how fit an individual or group are at that moment in time.  Furthermore, physical fitness is only one marker of health.  Whilst physically fit young populations tend to grow into physically fit adult populations, fitness alone is not the only indicator of future physical health.  This on argument for meauring youth physical literacy.


Physical Competence versus Physical Literacy

Fitness testing will indicate an young persons level of physical competence.  It doesn’t consider other factors important to their health or future health.  However, other factors, collectively known as youth physical literacy, that may influence a persons activity level include:

  • Attitudes to physical activity
  • Attitudes to and physical activity levels of family and friends
  • The set up of local environments and resources to participate in physical activity
  • Knowledge and understanding of the training process
  • Motor skills ability to undertake physical activities

Therefore some youth fitness experts are moving towards assessing the ‘Physical Literacy’ of young people.  Several nations are developing methods of assessing this.  Youth physical literacy considers a young persons lifestyle factors and cognitive understanding of physical activity and fitness.  As a result we may gain a better undertanding of a childs liklihood to be successfuly active into their adult life.